Experts Round Table: Playoffs predictions

Apr 14, 2018 by Euroleague.net Print

Welcome to the Experts Round Table, where we ask a variety of the most knowledgeable Turkish Airlines EuroLeague followers across the continent their opinions on the topics of the day. This week's panel includes Joe Arlauckas, former EuroLeague champion and Euroleague TV commentator; Dimitris Karydas, basketball expert and TV commentator at NOVAsports.gr in Greece; Vladimir Stankovic, veteran journalist and longtime EuroLeague.net collaborator; Nikos Varlas, Editor in Chief, Eurohoops.net; and Igor Petrinovic of Euroleague.net. In a special playoffs edition of the Round Table, each makes his predictions as to which teams will advance to the Final Four!




Which team will win the playoff series CSKA vs. Khimki, in how many games, and why?

Joe Arlauckas

If there is any series here that we can take a risk and call it a possibly easy series, this would be the one. Please make sure that Coach Itoudis doesn't read this because I am sure he will have a few choice words and "Are you crazy?" looks for me. Come on, Coach, we know that this is just what you wanted. I do not see this series going more than three games based on CSKA's dominance of Khimki and the fact that the "other" team in Moscow is just happy to be there. CSKA 3-0 Khimki

Dimitris Karydas

Coach Bartzokas has made an amazing job this year but is matched up against the most undesirable opponent in the playoffs. Since 2013, CSKA has won four straight series of finals or semifinals in the VTB League against Khimki, three of them with sweeps, and has won three straight games against their Moscow neighbors since 2015 in the EuroLeague. Tradition counts a lot in that particular pairing, especially if someone considers that CSKA is 12-0 in qualifications to the Final Four when it has home-court advantage. It is hard to see in a different way this battle between two Russian teams and two Greek coaches. CSKA 3-0 Khimki

Vladimir Stankovic

I see CSKA as the clear favorite. More of a team, more quality, more experience, less dependence on one player. Better offense (89.5 points per game) and good defense (79.2 points against), too. CSKA 3-0 Khimki

Nikos Varlas

CSKA Moscow and the Final Four have become… one and the same. We only have to consider that in the last 15 seasons they've only missed one, in 2011. They have more quality, experience, solutions, and a more complete roster. On a good day, Khimki Moscow Region can look CSKA square in the eyes and make things hard for them. I believe, though, that in this series the team with the greatest depth is the one that will prevail. CSKA 3-1 Khimki

Igor Petrinovic

I think CSKA continues its dominance over Khimki. CSKA is 16-2 against Khimki under Dimitris Itoudis, and has won last 14 games against its city-rival. A lot of those wins, and all four this season, were by double-digit margins. Also, CSKA has won its last 18 playoff home games, and has never lost a EuroLeague playoff series. Khimki could benefit from returns of Tyler Honeycutt and James Anderson, and CSKA will certainly miss Kyle Hines, but I still expect CSKA to get through the playoffs unscratched. CSKA 3-0 Khimki




Which team will win the playoff series Fenerbahce vs. Baskonia, in how many games, and why?

Joe Arlauckas

This could be an interesting series because both teams have been the best teams in the last 10 games played, especially Baskonia though, because every game was a playoff game to them since mid-February. Both teams lost their last games of the regular season, but the more important loss was in Vitoria. Not only did that break the momentum that they had, but now they find themselves going to Istanbul instead of Athens to face Olympiacos, a team I think they match up better with. Fener is strong but could be beaten, especially if Baskonia is on their game. The deciding factor might not be the home court, but it will be Coach Obradovic. Fenerbahce 3-1 Baskonia

Dimitris Karydas

The home-court advantage is always a strong qualification criterion in the EuroLeague Playoffs, but there are always surprises. My choice for this year's surprise is Baskonia qualifying against last year's champions and heavyweight favorite Fenerbahce. Fernando Buesa Arena is a permanent "black hole" in Obradovic's brilliant career, a place where he has experienced some very bad defeats. If the Spanish team fails to break Fener's home-court advantage in one of the first two Istanbul matches, the series will evolve into an epic battle. Baskonia's up-tempo style may be the decisive point if Fenerbahce's defense fails to find answers early in the series. Fenerbahce 1-3 Baskonia

Vladimir Stankovic

I expect a really even battle. Fenerbahce is the champion, an expert team that knows how to play under pressure. Baskonia is in good form and scores more points, but Fener has the best defense in the EuroLeague (73.6 points against in the regular season). The home-court advantage could be decisive. Fenerbahce 3-2 Baskonia

Nikos Varlas

With Zeljko Obradovic on the bench, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul has a 9-0 record in the playoffs in the last three seasons! That says a lot… I'm expecting a satisfying series, battles with runs for both teams, and a lot of suspense. Fenerbahce has the home-court advantage, the confidence of a champion, a tight defense, and players who are winners. I believe they are the ones who will manage to advance to the Final Four once again. KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz is a team that needs to impose its tempo on the court; if they get to run, they might be able to stake their claim. Fenerbahce 3-1 Baskonia

Igor Petrinovic

Fenerbahce is the defending champ and has won its last nine playoff games. Up until 10 days ago, Baskonia was a team no one wanted to face, playing some of the best basketball in the EuroLeague and winning an unprecedented six games in the month of March. But I would not be surprised if Coach Pedro Martinez men might be spent a little too much, mentally, after such a playoffs push. On the other hand, Coach Zeljko Obradovic will likely have Fenerbahce playing some of its best basketball of the season, because that's simply what he does with his teams. And his team has been playing well as it is. Fenerbahce swept the regular season series, and I expect the defending champs will have their home-court rocking, then finish the job in Vitoria. Fenerbahce 3-0 Baskonia




Which team will win the playoff series Panathinaikos vs. Real Madrid, in how many games, and why?

Joe Arlauckas

This series to me is The One. Fourth place vs. fifth place is always tightly contested, but this one seems even tighter. I am not sure in Panathinaikos would have been playing with less pressure from the fifth position than from the fourth, with home-court advantage. We all remember their 3-0 loss in last year’s playoffs to Fenerbahce. Well, those ghosts are there, and they will have to live with that. I predict that this series will go all five games unless Real Madrid wins the first one. If they can pull off Game 1, I think it's a Spanish sweep. If not, it goes five! Panathinaikos 2-3 Real Madrid

Dimitris Karydas

The battle between Panathinaikos and Madrid can evolve into an all-time classic and the most balanced of this year's playoffs. Panathinaikos has tremendous momentum going into playoffs, but Madrid has the depth and quality to reach their limits as a team. In the past, none of the two teams has had big success in road games, and usually the host team has the first (and the last) word. For this reason, the home-court advantage that Panathinaikos took on the last night of regular season can prove to be very decisive, since the Greens lost only two games at home this season. This can be the series that proves very difficult for the home-court advantage to change hands, and the two teams will go all the way to a fifth, pivotal game. Panathinaikos 3-2 Real Madrid

Vladimir Stankovic

I can't put my hand in the fire on this one, but I think that Madrid will come out of Athens tied 1-1, thus opening the door to the Final Four. Pablo Laso's team scores more, gets more rebounds, dishes more assists and commits fewer turnovers. Panathinaikos has advantages in points against (76.3 vs. 85.7 for Madrid) and steals (7.2 to 6.8). Details will decide it, or perhaps the inspiration of a single player, which is where I believe that Real Madrid has more possibilities. Panathinaikos 1-3 Real Madrid

Nikos Varlas

The most unpredictable and close series! Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens has the home-court advantage – one of the toughest home courts in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague – the momentum, and the desire to make it to a Final Four for the first time since 2012. Real Madrid has an even more complete roster and a line of big men with the ability to hurt their opponent. It's still a big question whether Sergio Llull will play. How much will he play and what kind of impact will he have? It's very difficult for a coach to harmonically insert such an important player in the roster in such crucial games, especially when he hasn't played at all so far. I would like to make two versions of this prediction. Madrid in four if it can win one of the first two battles in Athens, or the choice I will go with, no road wins, which means the Greens advance. Panathinaikos 3-2 Real Madrid

Igor Petrinovic

It is remarkable that these two teams have never previously met in the EuroLeague Playoffs, that they have nine victories each in head-to-head games this century, and that the last six have all been won by the home team. This season, Madrid dominated Panathinaikos in the Spanish capital and was up by 16 in Athens before squandering that lead in November. Madrid also did not have Anthony Randolph, Gustavo Ayon and Jeffrey Taylor in that game. I expect Madrid to steal one in the Greek capital, then protect its home floor. Panathinaikos has only six road wins this season, which I feel puts even more pressure on them in Athens. It might be too much against Luka Doncic & Co. Panathinaikos 1-3 Real Madrid




Which team will win the playoff series Olympiacos vs. Zalgiris, in how many games, and why?

Joe Arlauckas

This interesting for so many reasons, taking into consideration that Olympiacos blew big leads in their final two games of the regular season and one of them was on their home floor to Zalgiris. Up 16 points, they blew the lead and the game in overtime. That might not bother an experienced team like Olympiacos, but they have also struggled at times on the road. Of all the teams fighting for those Final Four spots, Zalgiris is the team I would least want to face. This team is not only well coached, but they play hard and have proven that they can win on the road. They have been the example for the future of this league, the way they have grown and taken major steps year after year. This year it's the playoffs, but unfortunately it will stop here. Olympiacos 3-1 Zalgiris

Dimitris Karydas

Here's another pair who can reach the limit of five matches in order to judge which team will qualify to the Final Four in Belgrade. We might even see the home-court advantage break not once, but twice, in this series. Although Zalgiris has impressed everyone this year, Olympiacos will be reasonably complete and without injuries when the series begins. And at this time of the season, team quality is just one difference. Most crucial will be the difference in experience against Zalgiris's enthusiastic but less-experienced core of players. Spanoulis and Printezis have played more playoffs games in their careers than all their opponents together and in the crucial moment this will count the most in the hunt for the qualification. Olympiacos 3-2 Zalgiris

Vladimir Stankovic

Expect an even closer series that could finish 3-2 or 2-3. Olympiacos is a constant in the EuroLeague, accustomed to being in the Final Four, while Zalgiris is a pleasant surprise for its style: fun and full of ideas. Of the eight playoff teams, only Baskonia has more assists than Zalgiris. Plus Zalgiris has won six road games in the regular season. Olympiacos 3-2 Zalgiris

Nikos Varlas

Zalgiris Kaunas is the most successful team of the regular season, outdoing themselves for the longest sustained period of time. A team with amazing cohesion and a very high basketball IQ. Olympiacos Piraeus, however, aside from the home-court advantage, have the experience and players with a winning spirit who have been in many Final Fours and finals, so I believe they will find the way to qualify. Its defeat at the hands of Sarunas Jasikevicius's team at Peace and Friendship Stadium to close the regular season was the best "gift" for the Reds. Now, they will go into this series extremely focused and determined. Olympiacos 3-1 Zalgiris

Igor Petrinovic

How great is it to have two teams that have played on the final day of the regular season go against each other in the playoffs? Zalgiris might have made a sweep in the regular season, but Olympiacos is still the favorite due to its long playoffs experience and the home-court advantage. However, not by much. I think it will all come down to Game 5, and to predict even further, I expect each team to grab a road win in the first four games. It will be similar to what Olympiacos had to go through last season against Anadolu Efes Istanbul. I wish to see the ultimate character Game 5 between two high-character teams, and I will take the underdog in that one, picking the upset. Olympiacos 2-3 Zalgiris