29 March Playoff Preview – Which games matter to each of the 7 teams in contention for the last 3 spots
With just 12 games left in the Euroleague regular season, playoff berths are locked up for 5 teams (Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid, Anadolu Efes, FC Barcelona) but 7 teams (Panathinaikos, Baskonia, Olympiacos, Olimpia Milano, Zalgiris, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bayern Munich) are still fighting for the last 3 spots. After Milano couldn’t beat an injured Fenerbahce at home and the dust settled on day 1 of Round 29, 3 heavy favorites emerged. Panathinaikos, Baskonia, and Olympiacos all have odds above 75% entering Friday night’s matches. However, a Baskonia loss drops their odds to 67.9% and an Olympiacos loss drops their odds all the way to 39.9%. For those reasons, most teams on the bubble will probably be cheering for them both to lose. However, not fans with their season in the balance should be hoping for that result. Maccabi would actually be better off if they both won because of how they fare in tiebreakers against Baskonia and Olympiacos’ opponent Zalgiris. A Baskonia win would be their 16th which is the magic number to clinch the playoffs without worrying about tiebreakers thanks to Rudy Fernández’s unbelievable game-winning shot against Panathinaikos Thursday evening. So who exactly should fans of each team be cheering for Friday night? It’s a tough question but we’ll answer as best we can.
Panathinaikos: Panathinaikos is still in the best situation of any bubble team as they are fortunate enough to get a favorable matchup against Buducnost to finish the season. If they win that game, they don’t have to worry about any other results as they are a certainty to make the playoffs. However, if they do get upset in their final game, they will need to rely on tiebreakers to qualify for playoffs but none of the Friday games have a big effect on their chances in that situation.
Baskonia: Baskonia is another team that just needs a win and they’re in and unlike Pana they have two chances. The bad part: those two games are vs. Anadolu Efes and @ CSKA Moscow. If Baskonia is not able to split their final two matches, they’ll need to win a tiebreaker as well. It would be very beneficial to their tiebreaker chances if Zalgiris were involved and Olympiacos were not. While neither of those things are a guarantee with a Zalgiris victory at Olympiacos, it would be impossible without it. If the game against Efes doesn’t turn out well, Baskonia fans might want to keep an eye on the score of Zal-Oly…counting on a win in Moscow against CSKA isn’t ideal.
Olympiacos: A win puts Olympiacos’ chances at 95.1%..a loss drops them to 39.9%. They should probably try to win this game. Efes beating Baskonia would also benefit David Blatt’s team. If they get to the locker room with a win and see an Efes win those odds jump even a little higher to 97.9%. Baskonia finishing 15-15 becomes even more vital if they lose, Baskonia would be a great tiebreaking partner for Olympiacos because of their two close wins against them.
Olimpia Milano: Milano needs some luck after their Fenerbahce loss dropped them to 14-15. Milano fans will become very big Darussafaka and Zalgiris fans for a night. They hold a huge tiebreaking advantage over Olympiacos and now that they are relying on a 15-15 tie, seeing Olympiacos in that category would be huge. Because Olympiacos is going to be heavy favorites at home against Darussafaka in Round 30, their losing in Round 29 is important to Milano. Darussafaka has a chance to help them out in Round 29 as well, if they can eliminate Bayern in their final home game, it would benefit a Milano team that has a slight scoring margin disadvantage vs. Bayern.
Zalgiris: Zalgiris is actually one of the few teams with a chance to qualify at 14-16. However, if they are 14-16 with a Round 29 loss to Olympiacos, this will be impossible. If they can’t win @ Olympiacos, none of this matters. If they do, they’ll be hoping to make the miracle comeback from 9-15 to a playoff spot. One result that would boost this is actually if Baskonia wins and removes themselves from a tiebreaker with Zalgiris. Because Zalgiris lost both games to Baskonia, they are hoping that Baskonia can knock off Efes this week or CSKA Moscow next week.
Maccabi Tel Aviv: Another team who lost both games to Baskonia is Maccabi. They will also be cheering for Baskonia to win a game to keep them out of tiebreakers. Maccabi’s odds with an Efes win are 5.4% but improve to 14.5% if Baskonia wins.
Bayern: At 13-15, Bayern has to win to remain in contention for playoffs. However, if they do win, they will be paying close attention to the game between Olympiacos and Zalgiris. Olympiacos’ two wins over Bayern by a combined 30 points practically eliminates them if Olympiacos finishes 15-15. Just like Milano, Bayern will be Darussafaka fans in Round 30 if Olympiacos defends home court against Zalgiris on Friday night.
Countless possibilities remain (too many for even the projections to count) but hopefully Friday night’s games over some clarity and even more excitement. The Odds Estimates will be updated live as the games happen all night to give you up-to-the-minute playoff chances for each team. Updates will also be posted on twitter @andrewmastin and @NewStatsEu