Turkish basketball will have ambitions of claiming at least one spot in the Euroleague Final Four to be played in Istanbul next month as the Euroleague playoffs begin with three Turkish teams in the final eight.
Two Turkish clubs will launch their Turkish Airlines Euroleague playoff campaigns away games against Greek giants, with Fenerbahce playing Panathinaikos on April 18 and Anadolu Efes taking on Olympiacos on April 19.
The third Turkish club in the final eight, Darussafaka Dogus, will travel to Real Madrid on April 19.
Two of the top five defenses in the league will square off when the series between Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce opens.
The game pits eight-time Euroleague winning coach, Fenerbahce’s Zeljko Obradovic, against the team he guided to five continental titles.
Panathinaikos has never faced Obradovic in the playoffs before, and the coaching legend will be searching for his first win in Athens against his former club; he is 0-4 against Panathinaikos since taking over his current team.
Over the course of the season, Panathinaikos has allowed the third-fewest points (74.5 points per game), although Fenerbahce allowed only marginally more at 74.8 points per game. It will be important for both teams to put a dent into the opposing defense, which each side has managed to do once this season already.
Panathinaikos beat Fenerbahce 81-70 in Round 12 in Athens, while Fenerbahce took an 84-63 win in their Round 18 encounter.
In a game that marks the return of a pair of classic Euroleague teams to the playoffs, Olympiacos hosts Anadolu Efes in a clash of styles on April 19.
It’s been less than three weeks since the last time these two sides meet, a Round 29 contest in which Efes beat the Reds 77-69.
This time, however, it is playoff time, and Olympiacos is on its home court, where it rarely loses.
Not only did coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos’ side beat Efes 90-66 in the second week of the season in Piraeus, but Olympiacos is also looking to extend its nine-game winning streak in playoff games at home, which dates back to 2011.
To do so, Olympiacos will go to its strengths, including a defense that allowed the second-fewest points this season (74.2 points per game) and a league-low seven three-pointer per game, as well as a rebounding crew that led the Euroleague (37.1 rebounds per game).
But Efes was the regular season’s best offensive rebounding team (12.7 per game), ranked third in scoring (84 per game), fifth in assists (18.5 per game), and made the most two-point shots, thanks mostly to its transition game and the ability of its players to finish at the rim.
In Madrid, Darussafaka Dogus will come up against the winningest team in Euroleague history in the club’s very first appearance in the playoffs.
In this meeting of the highest and the lowest playoff seeds, it is no surprise find that Madrid has excelled in several statistical categories, while Darussafaka had its struggles before sneaking into the eighth spot.
Madrid has led the competition in performance index rating (102.1) and assists (20.6 per game). It also leads all teams in three-pointers made, coming just one triple shy of 300 for the season, giving its well-oiled offense the second-highest scoring average, 86.2 points. On the other hand, no team through 30 rounds has taken better care of ball than Darussafaka, which has committed a league-low 11.2 turnovers and allows its opponents the second-fewest steals, 5.2, per contest.
This will not be the first time head coaches Pablo Laso and David Blatt have gone head to head in the playoffs. In 2013, Madrid swept Blatt’s Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv team by double-digit margins in all three games as Madrid went on to reach the first of three consecutive championship games.
The two coaches were on opposite sides a year later, but this time in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Championship Game, where Blatt and Maccabi came up with a big 98-86 overtime upset to win the continental crown.