With five straight victories and seven in their last nine Euroleague matches, the Basques are very close to secure their qualification to the playoffs, playing excellent basketball on both ends of the floor.
Having won just once in their first six games (1-5 record), it was not likely for Baskonia to maintain a play-off push in the beginning of the season, as the team was playing mediocre, both defensively and offensively.
Fast forward to today, things have been completely different. Coach Pedro Martinez has done an excellent job and has rapidly improved the squad’s playing style.
Consequently, the Basques now are very close to clinch the last play-off spot, which will enable them to fight for a place in the 2018 Final Four.
With Jayson Granger, Tornike Shengelia and Rodrigue Beaubois as the leaders and most players being in great shape, the Spanish side has exploded in the last five games.
Coach Martinez has seen his players dominate their opponents, both at home and on the road, and claim crucial victories that have helped them climb higher on the table and overcome Maccabi Tel-Aviv (which was eighth in the standings).
Averaging 88.2 points per game in their last five matches and conceding just 72.8, the Basques have been in the ideal playing condition, having made a big come-back in the past couple of months.
More specifically, they have prevailed over Khimki (87-77), Valencia (71-81), Zalgiris Kaunas (84-64), Bamberg (103-79) and Barcelona (73-86).
Against the “Blaugrana” on Friday night, Baskonia went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter (58-63, 58-77), which let them easily prevail over the Catalans and come one step closer to the postseason.
The Spanish club welcomes Maccabi on Thursday night at the “Fernando Buesa Arena” (29/3, 21:00 CET) and they will qualify to the playoffs, if they beat the Israelis (13-15 record).
The multiple time Euroleague champions have suffered fourth straight defeats, and five in their last six matches, so their match in Vitoria is, without a doubt, a do-or-die one.
The reason is that Maccabi needs to beat both the Basques and Valencia on the road, while Baskonia should also lose to Anadolu Efes at home next week.
In such a scenario, the Israelis will secure the last play-off spot and the Spaniards will be eliminated.
On the other hand, Pedro Martinez and his players need to beat either Maccabi or Efes in order to advance to the playoffs.
However, if they beat both the Israelis and the Turks, then they will have the opportunity to climb higher on the table and avoid facing CSKA Moscow in the next round.
Instead, and in case they finish sixth or seventh, they will face either Olympiacos or the defending champions, Fenerbahce.
Although their mission will be extremely difficult, since the aforementioned clubs are the favourites to win the title, the Basques look ready to fight tooth and nail in the next few games and overcome the odds.
For me, and given the current playing condition of the two clubs, it is not likely for Baskonia to lose to Maccabi at home, so the Basques will probably earn the last play-off place on Thursday night.
Moreover, with Khimki (Fenerbahce at home, Barcelona on the road) and Zalgiris Kaunas (CSKA Moscow at home, Olympiacos on the road) having a difficult schedule, it is possible for the Basques to overcome both the Russians and the Lithuanians, ending the regular season in the best way possible (seven straight victories and nine in the last 11 games).
Overall, Baskonia has been one of the best teams in the Euroleague in the last couple of months, so they certainly deserve a spot in the playoffs.
And no matter what will happen in the playoffs, their European presence has already been successful.