Tomorrow night sees two epic semi-final showdowns in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Europe’s biggest basketball competition. Anadolu Efes take on Olympiacos while Barcelona and Real Madrid play out the latest installment of this year’s El Clásico battles.
The Stark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia, is this year’s host for the epic Final Four tournament, which will crown the 2021/22 season winner. The single game semi-finals are merely the preamble to Saturday’s big finale. With four brilliant teams vying for the title, let’s take a look at where these games could be won and lost.
Anadolu Looking For Back-to-Back Titles
The current holders – Turkish champions Anadolu Efes – are looking to become the first team to win consecutive EuroLeague titles since 2013. The last team to achieve that feat were their semi-final opponents: Olympiacos.
Route to the final
Olympiacos finished second in the regular season, behind only Barcelona, winning 19 games. They lost just two of their final 10 regular season games – a push that helped secure their play-off spot.
Anadolu, though they only won three less games than their Greek opponents (16), finished in sixth place. Despite losing 12 games in total, they actually racked up the highest total points tally across the whole league (2,322).
— Anadolu Efes SK (@AnadoluEfesSK) April 28, 2022
The Turkish champions were drawn against Milano. Despite levelling the series at 1-1, Anadolu were able to push on and grab a 3-1 victory.
In the run to the final four, Olympiacos were drawn against Monaco, who took them through a grueling five-game contest. Game five was as close as the previous four, as the Greek side edged it 94-88 to book their ticket to Belgrade.
— Olympiacos B.C. (@olympiacosbc) May 18, 2022
The key numbers
It’s a good thing that the Final Four is a one-and-done competition, because according to the metrics, these teams could easily play on forever. Their output has been incredibly similar in a number of metrics this year. There is almost no difference in assists per game: Olympiacos averaging 17.3 to Anadolu’s 17; steals per game: 6.3 to 6.4; and blocks per game: 2.4 to 2.7.
Anadolu shoot just 0.8% better from three (35.8% to 36.6%), whilst Olympiacos are better from inside the arc by just 0.9% (58% t0 57.1%). The Turkish team also pick up just 0.6 more rebounds per game. The only area where you could spot a less-than-marginal difference if from the free-throw line: Anadolu shoot 82.8%, whilst Olympiacos are slightly less accurate: 75.8%. Could it come down to taking those chances from the foul line?
Anadolu will look to their German center Tibor Pleiss to dominate the ball and pick up points in the paint. He registered 25 points and six rebounds in their clinching win over Milan, and has averaged 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game all season.
Can Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas – the EuroLeague Coach of the Year winner – mastermind another excellent performance from his team?
El Clásico takes on new meaning
It had to happen, didn’t it? For two teams who know each other so well, this will be one of their more memorable contests. Both teams have absolutely set the pace in the Liga Endesa this year – finishing first and second in the regular season. This will be the fifth time in 2022 that these two teams have faced off – in the third different competition. Barcelona have won all four previous games.
Route to the final
Both teams appeared to have replicated their ACB form in the EuroLeague, setting the early pace and playing cat-and-mouse with the lead for most of the season. That was until Real Madrid lost their last four games in a row and fell from first to fourth, with the third-lowest total points tally of all the teams that qualified for the play-offs.
— Real Madrid Basket (@RMBaloncesto) May 18, 2022
Barcelona, on the other hand, have been imperious all season. They finished top of the regular standings with 21 wins and the third-highest total points tally of the entire league.
Madrid’s drop in the league meant that they played fifth-placed Maccabi Tel-Aviv, who went into the play-offs on a run of six straight EuroLeague wins. As we know in play-off basketball though, records go out the window. Madrid cruised to a 3-0 series win with a combined 50 point gap on their opponents over the three games.
Barcelona faced eighth-placed Bayern Munich, who made the play-offs with some fortune – having lost three of their last five regular season games. As with the Madrid-Tel Aviv game, the records went out the window here, too. Bayern forced Barcelona to beat them in five games, refusing to back down in the series and holding the league’s most devastating attack to just 52 points in game four. An 81-72 victory in the final game saw Barcelona advance.
And the @Euroleague MVP is…
⭐️ 𝐍𝐈𝐊𝐎𝐋𝐀 𝐌𝐈𝐑𝐎𝐓𝐈𝐂 ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/wF2EHWnJcx
— 🏆 Barça Basket (@FCBbasket) May 18, 2022
The key numbers
The numbers here tell something of a different story, and indicate that this game may play out differently to that of the first semi-final.
Madrid have the edge over Barcelona in defensive states. They have more steals (6.4 to 5.9), more blocks (3.3 to 1.8) and more rebounds (38.3 to 18.3) per game. Barcelona are an offensive powerhouse though, recording higher field goal percentages behind the arc (40.3% to 35.8%), inside the arc (54.6% to 53.7%) and from the free-throw line (81.7% to 76.6%).
Madrid will look to Thomas Heurtel (9 points per game) and Walter Tavares (10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) to disrupt the Barcelona offense and capitalise on forced turnovers.
For Barcelona, they have one of the best players in all of Europe and the 2022 Euroleague MVP winner: Nikola Mirotic When these two teams played in the EuroLeague back in December, Mirotic picked up 31 points and 10 rebounds, blowing a strong Madrid side away. If he turns up, and Barcelona keep Tavares quiet, it could be a difficult night for Los Blancos.
The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague semi-finals take place on Thursday 19th of May:
- Anadolu Efes vs. Olympiakos: 17:00 GMT
- Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: 20:00 GMT