The 34th and final full round of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season offers six games on Thursday and Friday that will impact which teams fill two open playoff spots and which other one get all-important home-court advantage in the next phase.
Three games in particular influence how the remaining two playoff spots will be filled: Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul vs. Real Madrid and Valencia Basket vs. TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gazteiz on Thursday, tiping off 1 hour and 15 minutes apart, respectively, and Zenit St Petersburg vs. Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on Friday.
Real (19-14) has the simplest path to the playoffs, with a victory over already-qualified Fenerbahce (20-13) or with a loss by Zenit (18-14).
A victory by Real would mean that the remaining playoff spot would go to Zenit if it can win on Friday and again in its rescheduled Round 6 home game against eliminated Panathinaikos OPAP Athens next Monday, April 12.
If Real wins and Zenit loses one of those games, then the eighth and final playoff spot will belong to Valencia (18-15) if it can defeat Baskonia (18-15), due to its advantage in a tie with Zenit. The same cannot be said for Baskonia, however. If Real wins and Zenit is successful in only one of its last two games, Zenit still advances due to a three-point tiebreak advantage over Baskonia. If Real wins and Zenit were to lose both games, however, the Valencia-Baskonia winner would be eighth.
If Real loses, however, fortunes change. First, the winner of Valencia-Baskonia would qualify for the playoffs automatically. The remaining spot would then go to Real unless Zenit were to win both of its remaining games and therefore finish seventh, above the Valencia-Baskonia winner, both of whom have tiebreak advantages over Real. In a three-way tie on 19 wins between Real, Zenit and either Valencia or Baskonia, Zenit is eliminated, Real finishes eight and its Spanish rival seventh.
Round 34 finishes with two more games, in addition to Real-Fenerbahce, that will decide fourth place, the last one with home-court advantage in the playoffs. The first, AX Armani Exchange Milan (20-13) vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul (22-11), tips off 15 minutes before first-place FC Barcelona (24-9) hosts FC Bayern Munich (20-13).
Milan holds the best cards going into Round 34. A win over Efes or losses by both Fenerbahce and Bayern would be worth fourth place to the Italian team. Fenerbahce, should it defeat Real on Thursday, would finish fourth only if Milan loses, as well. Bayern needs both Fenerbahce and Milan to lose first, and then must defeat Barcelona, to claim fourth place.
Should Bayern, Fenerbahce and Milan all win their games and finished tied with 21 victories each, Milan gains the fourth spot for having a 3-1 record against the other two.
Home-court advantage has been favorable throughout the history of the playoffs. Fully 80% of the teams that had home-court advantage in 60 series since the playoffs launched in the 2004-05 season have reached the Final Four. In three-game series between 2005 and 2008, 14 of 16 teams (87.5%) that hosted Game 1 advanced. Since five-games series started in 2009, the figure is 34 of 44 teams, or 77.3%.