EuroLeague Playoffs Preview: Panathinaikos, Real Madrid set for clash of basketball titans
AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris previews the playoffs series between Panathinaikos and Real Madrid as two heavyweights of the European game look to reach the Final Four in Belgrade…
Watch LIVE from AGONASPORT.com game 1 of the EuroLeague Playoffs between Panathinaikos & Real Madrid on Tuesday, April 17th!
The long-anticipated playoff matchup between Greek Champions Panathinaikos and Spanish giants Real Madrid was finally confirmed on the final day of the EuroLeague regular season; however, a twist to the playoff seeding giftwrapped home court advantage to the Trifylli.
Real Madrid fans certainly voiced their frustration towards the catalyst of the shakeup in the standings – Olympiacos – after the Piraeus giants’ loss to Zalgiris Kaunas came at the expense of Real Madrid’s home court bid.
Fans of the Spanish giants will hope they get the chance to confront Olympiacos in the Final Four, but before Real Madrid can even think of making reservations in Belgrade another Greek giant awaits them in the playoffs.
Despite their future in the EuroLeague in question following comments made by club president Dimitris Giannakopoulos, Panathinaikos are keen to make their first Final Four since 2012 as the Trifylli look to take one step closer to earning their seventh EuroLeague title.
Nick Calathes will play a massive role in Panathinaikos’ push for the Final Four as the Greek guard takes his league-leading 8.1 assists-per-game into the playoffs. Calathes ability to get the likes of James Gist and the rest of the Panathinaikos offense involved will go a long way in determining Panathinaikos’ chances in advancing.
With both sides splitting previous meetings this season as the home side emerged victorious on both occasions, home advantage might be the decisive factor in what is expected to be the tightest of the four playoff matchups.
With the fortress that is the OAKA Olympic Indoor Hall, Real Madrid will look to overcome a stiff Panathinaikos challenge without the services of Sergio Llull as the reigning EuroLeague MVP is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered over the summer.
If Llull’s absence wasn’t enough, problems were compounded for Real Madrid this week when it was revealed that knee surgery would rule out Facundo Campazzo for the entirety of the playoffs. The loss of Campazzo leaves Real Madrid’s depth rather thin at the point guard position, meaning further pressure is expected to fall on teenage sensation Luka Doncic – a projected first round pick in this summer’s NBA draft.