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CSKA aim to forget James with playoffs opener as Barca face late entrants Zenit

CSKA Moscow guard Mike James’s time in the EuroLeague is set to be over with NBA franchises the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks are said to be in talks with the American player. But the Moscow side will be focused on their opening playoffs game against Fenerbahce. First seed Barcelona open their postseason commitments as they face eight-seed Zenit St. Petersburg who only secured their place in the final game of the regular season.

CSKA will be looking to continue their winning streaks, with wins in their last five games, while Fenerbahce have lost their past two games heading into the playoffs. But it will still be a clash of the titans as this matchup assures to have a Final Four round which, for the first time since 2014, will not have both teams still in action.

This season, CSKA’s James has been in form averaging 19.3 points and 4.7 assists in 27 games. However, the American guard was suspended after an altercation with head coach Dimitris Itoudis. According to the New York Post, the 30-year-old has reportedly left Moscow and is currently in New York looking to strike a deal with an NBA team.

As for Fenerbahce, Nando De Colo leads with 15.5 points per games.

CSKA lead 20-09 head-to-head but Fenerbahce have won three times in the last five games in Moscow.

Battle of defenses

In Spain, a clash of defenses is set to be in store as top seed Barcelona face Zenit. The Blaugrana have let in 73.6 points per game – the least across the EuroLeague – while Zenit follow with 74.9 PPG. Barca finished first with a 24-10 record while Zenit took it to the final game in a do-or-die encounter against Panathinaikos (112-83) with Valencia missing out.

Barcelona return to the Playoffs for the first time since 2016, after playing in the postseason in the 11 previous seasons. As for Zenit, this will be their debut with the side being in their second season in the EuroLeague.

The matchup comes as a boost for coach Xavi Pascual who signed a three-year contract extension with the side on Tuesday. Pascual, who joined Zenit in 2020 spent nine seasons at Barcelona, leading them to the 2010 EuroLeague title.

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