Anadolu Efes will be aiming for a final-four place in this season’s EuroLeague playoffs as they face Real Madrid in their opener in Istanbul tonight.
Third seed Efes will have homecourt advantage as they battle to recreate and go one step ahead of 2019, when the side made the Championship game but lost to CSKA Moscow 83-91. This was the furthest Efes had ever reached and in their first appearance in the Final Four. With a 22-12 record this season, the Turkish side will be looking towards guards Vasilije Micic (16.1 PPG) and Shane Larkin (15.1PPG) to make the most damage.
Real Madrid on the other hand, have made seven Final Four appearances in the last 10 years, winning the title in 2015 and 2018 and will be aiming to redirect the hype over forward Gabriel Deck, who left the club for the Oklahoma Thunder in the NBA last week.
With center Walter Tavares averaging 1.7 blocks a game – the highest throughout the EuroLeague this season – Real will be banking on his defense to stop Efes from getting in.
With both sides being great on the road this season, with Real winning 10 and Efes getting 11 wins away from home in 17 games, both sides will be comfortable playing on the road in this playoff series.
Return for Milan and Bayern
In the second playoff game of the night, Olimpia Milano face Bayern Munich. While Milan have won the EuroLeague three times, they have been away from the playoffs since 2014. For Bayern, this is their first ever appearance as they become the first German side to make the postseason.
Led by FIBA Hall of Fame coach Ettore Messina, who last week denied claims made by Gazzetta dello Sport about him having made a verbal agreement to become the Italy national team coach, Milan will be banking on the free-scoring ability of Kevin Punter, Shavon Shields, Malcolm Delaney and Zach LeDay, who all been scoring in double figures per night.
With Milan taking homecourt advantage after claiming the fourth seed ahead of Bayern, who are right behind them, the side will be aiming to take as much as they can as they are now facing opposition who are the only team to win 13 games at home this season, and so Milan will not want to give up anything before they go on the road.
Despite not having ever been in the playoffs before, Bayern will have the experience of James Gist who has 27 appearances in the postseason during his time with Panathinaikos.
With wade Baldwin (15.1 PPG) and Vladimir Lucic (13.8PPG) ranked among the best scorers this season, the side will be a handful for Milan.
This tie will have an added emotional effect as Bayern coach Andrea Trinchieri returns to his hometown and faces the team he started his career with as an assistant.