Baskonia, Zalgiris and Efes eyeing the last playoff spot

The end of the EuroLeague regular season is just 10 days away and with 2 rounds left to play, there are still a few questions regarding the final standings and playoff matchups.

While some teams are already qualified and will try to win their last two games in order to finish in a better position in the standings, there are three teams that fight for the last playoff spot: Baskonia, Zalgiris and Efes (mathematically Maccabi, Fenerbahce and Partizan are not qualified either, but only a very unfortunate mix of results would eliminate them).

Baskonia is currently 8th in the standings with a 17-15 record and has to play against Asvel Lyon at home and against Olympiacos in Piraeus. The Basque team is powerful on their home court (they have a 13-3 record this season when playing in Vitoria-Gasteiz) and the French team is already eliminated from playoff contention. Hence, Thursday’s game in the Fernando Buesa Arena is a must-win for Joan Penarroya’s team. In the last round, Baskonia will play Olympiacos in the Peace and Friendship Stadium in what could be a preview of the quarterfinal matchup between the two teams.

With the same 17-15 record as Baskonia, but only in 9th place currently is Zalgiris Kaunas. The Lithuanians will host the Final Four event in May and the home fans would love to see their team at least in the quarterfinals where they can fight for a surprise appearance in the Final Four. The Greens will have a very tough game in the Zalgirio Arena against a Maccabi team that can book their ticket to the playoffs with a win or if they lose by just one point. Next week, Zalgiris will travel to Munich to play against Bayern in the last round. A motivated Zalgiris should be the favourite there against a Bayern team that is on a 5 game losing streak and has no chance to qualify.

Lastly, back-to-back champions Anadolu Efes Istanbul are still fighting for the playoffs. After winning two EuroLeague trophies in a row and great transfers made in the summer, Efes was considered one of the biggest favourites to win again, however, it was a hugely disappointing season for Ergin Ataman and his team, who are very close now to miss the Top 8. Still, they have great individual qualities and we cannot count them out yet. Efes has two very difficult games left and they must win both: on Thursday they will play against rivals Fenerbahce on Fener’s home court while next week they will host Monaco. If they succeed in reaching the playoffs, Efes would be a nightmare matchup for any team, but this scenario is still far away.

Imre Halasz

Photo credit: EuroLeague