The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season reaches its end this week with teams still jockeying for position and players racking up records. Let’s take a look at what to watch for in Round 30.
How many permutations?!
We already know that CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce Istanbul will march into the playoffs as the top two seeds after respectively securing first and second place…but we don’t know anything else. Remarkably, after 232 games and more than five months of competition, places third to eighth place are still all open, with Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens still able to finish anywhere from third to sixth, Zalgiris able to finish anywhere from fifth to eighth, and the other four playoffs-qualified teams also uncertain of their final spots. In fact, according to some rough calculations, at least 20 different playoff scenarios are still possible. CSKA against Khimki in a local derby? Or CSKA against Baskonia in a repeat of last season’s playoffs? Or CSKA against Zalgiris in a repeat of last week’s thriller? They could all happen, and that’s only for the first- versus eighth-place matchup! The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague truly is the competition where anything could happen.
History on Madrid’s side?
The weight of history would appear to be very much in favor of Real Madrid as it prepares to host Brose Bamberg looking for the win it needs to secure home-court advantage in the playoffs. Madrid has won seven of its last nine games at WiZink Center, while visiting Brose has not won away from home since back in Round 5, suffering a 12-game losing streak on the road since beating Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade in November. Furthermore, Madrid has enjoyed near total dominance over Brose in their previous meetings, winning 12 of their 13 past games including the last six in a row and all nine in the Spanish capital with an average winning margin of 17.8 points. So Brose will have to overturn a lot of odds to spoil Madrid’s quest to finish in the top four, especially with Luka Doncic fresh from gaining the MVP of the Round honor for the fifth time this season.
Baskonia ready for a three-point party?
Following Barcelona’s haul of 19 triples at Anadolu Efes Istanbul last week, this season’s top two three-point shooting team performances have both come against the Turkish team –including CSKA Moscow’s collection of 18 long-range conversions in January. And this week that could be good news for Efes’s final opponents of the campaign, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, which knows a thing or two about scoring from beyond the arc after averaging 9.69 triples per game.
Baskonia possesses six players who are shooting at better than 40% from three-point territory: the league’s most accurate long-range shooter Johannes Voigtmann (61.5%), Marcelinho Huertas (43.8%), Rodrigue Beaubois (42.1%), Janis Timma (41.4%), Jayson Granger (40.4%) and Luca Vildoza (40%). This week that group of shooters will attempt to extend their team’s six-game winning run by exploiting Efes’s weakness at defending beyond the arc, so don’t rule out a flurry of long-range baskets at Fernando Buesa Arena.
De Colo to reach milestone?
The remarkably consistent Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow is heading into the final round of the regular season with another milestone in sight, needing just 2 points to reach a total of 500 for the season. Assuming he achieves that feat in Thursday’s home game against Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, De Colo will reach the 500-mark for the third time in his career after already doing so in each of the last two campaigns. Only five other players have scored 500 points or more in a single EuroLeague season: Alexey Shved in the current campaign, Keith Langford, Brad Wanamaker and Sergio Llull last year, and Malcolm Delaney in 2015-16. That means De Colo is the only player to have surpassed 500 more than once, and now he is poised to do so for the third time in a row; the king of the scorers, indeed.
Calathes to smash assists record?
What De Colo does for scoring, Nick Calathes does for assisting – and the Panathinaikos star is on course to set an extremely high standard for the league’s single-season assists record. With at least four games remaining (this week’s final round of the regular season plus a minimum of three playoffs games), Calathes has already broken Vassilis Spanoulis’s record of 201 assists in a season by dishing 214 dimes to James Gist and co. As he’s going along at more than 8 per game, Calathes should therefore finish the season with around 250 assists, blowing the previous record out of the water.
And although that achievement has obviously been helped by the fact that he has played more games due to the new format, Calathes’s numbers would stack up in any era: his assists-per-game average of 8.23 is the best this century, outstripping Thomas Heurtel’s 7.92 with Efes two years ago and Elmer Bennett’s average of 7.33 assists (in only six games) with Baskonia in 2002-03. It can be argued that some single-season records are distorted by the league’s new format…but not this one.