Destination Belgrade: Path to Final Four revealed for Olympiacos, Panathinaikos
Following the final round of regular season fixtures in the EuroLeague on Friday night, the path to the Final Four has been revealed for Greece’s flag bearers…
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After a grueling 30-game regular season, the EuroLeague playoff picture has been confirmed as both Olympiacos and Panathinaikos learned the opponents that stand in their way of a ticket to Belgrade next month.
Both Greek clubs were pushed to the limit in Round 30 as both Greek sides required overtime in their respective EuroLeague clashes this week. Panathinaikos’ defeat of AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan on Thursday night, paired with Olympiacos’ overtime loss to Zalgiris Kaunas and Real Madrid’s defeat of Brose Bamberg provided a slight facelift to the EuroLeague standings heading into the playoffs.
While five out of the eight playoff-bound were already aware of their final placement in the standings, third through fifth were yet to be determined ahead of tip-off this week. Olympiacos did hold an edge in the race for third place heading into the final round of action with a slightly better record than both Panathinaikos and Real Madrid but knew that even a loss on Friday would not cost the club home court advantage in the playoffs.
In fact, Olympiacos were spared blushes and a drop to fourth place in the standings despite their loss to Zalgiris on Friday night as the Erythrolefki slipped to 19-11 on the season. The silver lining for Yiannis Sfairopoulos’ men proved to be the tiebreaker they held with their closest rivals after results out-of-town meant Panathinaikos and Real Madrid would also finish the season with matching 19-11 records.
As the dust settled on the regular season, Olympiacos maintained their grip on third spot in the standings and a date with sixth-placed Zalgiris. Meanwhile, the big shakeup to the standings occurred between Panathinaikos and Real Madrid as the Trifylli snuck into fourth place to secure home court advantage over the Spanish giants as both sides are slated to meet in the playoffs after all.
Olympiacos failed to beat Zalgiris on both occasions this season, but it should be noted that the Piraeus giants were without the services of Georgios Printezis and Kim Tille on both occasions.
Panathinaikos traded wins with Real Madrid in the two meetings between the two sides this season, but while the Trifylli narrowly edged the Spanish giants at the OAKA early in the season, the reverse fixture in Spanish capital was anything but narrow.
The final placements for Greece’s representatives is identical to their finishing positions last season as Olympiacos finished third last campaign and Panathinaikos fourth. Both Greek clubs took on Turkish opposition in the playoffs as Olympiacos went on to face Anadolu Efes en route to an appearance in the EuroLeague Final, while Panathinaikos were swept by eventual champions Fenerbahce in their all-Aegean playoff matchup.
Unlike last season, however, CSKA Moscow managed to improve on their second-place finish and end the season as the best team in the regular season with a 24-6 record – two more wins than their campaign last term. Titleholders Fenerbahce finished three games behind the Russian giants with a 21-9 record as the Turkish side secured home court advantage in the playoff round for the first time in the club’s history.
CSKA’s reward for finishing as the best team in the regular season is a playoff date with domestic rivals Khimki Moscow Region, while Fenerbahce will clash with Spain’s Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz in hopes of getting one step closer to a championship repeat.
The playoff round, which consists of a best-of-five series to determine the four finalists that will compete in Belgrade next month, tip-off on 17 April. Both Olympiacos and Panathinaikos will host the first two games of their respective series at home, before travelling abroad for game three in the series. If necessary, game four will be played abroad as well before the series shifts back to Greece – if necessary – for the decisive fifth game of the series.
EuroLeague Playoff Matchups
CSKA Moscow – Khimki Moscow Region
Fenerbahce – Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
Olympiacos – Zalgiris Kaunas
Panathinaikos – Real Madrid