Valencia Basket and Khimki Moscow Region meet again in the 7DAYs EuroCup quarterfinals. Valencia is 13-1 in the EuroCup this season and has won its last 12 games, but Khimki has collected four road wins thus far. Valencia holds the home-court advantage for this best-of-three series.
The EuroCup classic
It is safe to say that Valencia Basket versus Khimki Moscow Region is the ultimate EuroCup showdown. Not only do the two teams combine for five titles, they have met many times on their respective paths to glory, too. Khimki downed Valencia 73-76 in the 2008-09 EuroCup Quarterfinals behind 15 points from Mike Wilkinson. Khimki also beat Valencia 77-68 in the 2012 championship game to claim its first-ever EuroCup title as Zoran Planinic earned MVP honors. Valencia avenged that defeat in the 2014 EuroCup Quarterfinals by downing Khimki in a two-game series that went down to the final basket, a go-ahead jumper by Pau Ribas. Valencia and Khimki met again in the 2015 quarterfinals and the Russian powerhouse prevailed by sweeping the two-game series. Now Valencia and Khimki are facing their fifth win-or-go-home situation in the competition, which is completely unprecedented. Moreover, a good number of players - James Augustine, Marko Popovic, Mickael Gelabale, Kresimir Loncar, Matt Nielsen, Chris Quinn, Thomas Kelati and Ademola Okulaja - have played for both teams.
Head coaches know what it takes
Pedro Martinez and Dusko Ivanovic are two of the most respected coaches in Europe. Both of them have won European competitions, but neither has done so in some time. Martinez became the youngest coach in Europe to win a European title; he was 28 when he led Joventut Badalona to the 1990 Korac Cup trophy. Ivanovic also won the Korac Cup, with Limoges CSP in 2000. Both coaches have taken some of their respective teams to continental finals over the last 16 years, but neither was able to collect another European title. Ivanovic led Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz to EuroLeague finals in 2001 and 2005, but lost against Kinder Bologna and Maccabi Tel Aviv, respectively. Martinez went all the way to the 2008 ULEB Cup final with Akasvayu Girona, but his former team, Joventut, stood in his way. Expect a great tactical battle, as only one of these two great coaches will keep battling for EuroCup glory.
Rowland, Martinez, Dubljevic: top scorers battle
In the final round of the Top 16, Marko Popovic became the EuroCup's all-time leading scorer with 1,188 points. His title of EuroCup Scoring King is already under threat by three players who will be in this best-of-three quarterfinal series. E.J. Rowland of Khimki is tied for third place on the all-time scorers' list with 1,144 points, Rafa Martinez is seventh with 1,124 followed by Bojan Dubljevic, who has 1,102. The next active player on the list is Sergey Monya, who ranks 24th overall with 832 points. In other words, whoever wins this series will have a player with very good chances to become the record-holder. Martinez has two other EuroCup records in sight; he ranks second in both games played and three-point shots made. He needs eight appearances to overtake Vladimir Veremeenko as the player with most EuroCup games played; Veremeenko appeared in 130 games. Popovic leads the career charts in three-point shots list at 207, with Martinez right behind at 201.
Offense vs. defense
Khimki has posted terrific offensive numbers in the 2016-17 EuroCup. It is third in scoring at 88.1 points per game, third in offensive rebounds (11.9 orpg.) and sixth in assists (19 apg.), which has helped it to shoot the ball with very good percentages (56.1% on two-pointers and 37.7% on threes). Free throw percentage is its weakest stop though; Khimki is last in this year's EuroCup (67.3%), with Valencia second (79.5%). Still, Khimki has shown a lot of hustle and ranks second in steals (8.21 spg. to Valencia’s 7.43), is second in fouls drawn (22.9 per game to Valencia’s 20.8) and third in blocks (3.36 bpg. to Valencia’s 2.57). On the other hand, Valencia arrives to the quarterfinals with the best defense in the competition, allowing just 71.4 points per game, which is 11 points less than Khimki! It has forced opponents to shoot the ball poorly, as teams average 49.5% from two-point range and 34.4% from beyond the arc against the Spanish powerhouse. Valencia is second in defensive rebounds (25.3 drpg.) and takes extremely good care of the ball with the fewest turnovers in the EuroCup (11.9 per game) and ranking second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.61 assists per turnover).