Olympiacos and Panathinaikos Superfoods need to beat Zalgiris Kaunas and Real Madrid, respectively, on the road in order to remain alive in the play-off series.
Olympiacos levelled the series on Friday night, thanks to a 79-68 victory in Game 2, and they now want to steal a victory in Kaunas.
The “Reds” saw most of their injured players return to action, despite not being in the ideal playing condition.
With Jamel McLean and Vassilis Spanoulis being the top scorers with 21 and 17 points, respectively, the Greeks played excellent in the fourth quarter, outscoring their opponents 25-14 to secure a much-needed win.
With their defence being very tough again, especially in the first and fourth quarter, Olympiacos improved their offensive performance and edged the Lithuanians at the sold-out Piece and Friendship Stadium.
Zalgiris, though, are expected to be more aggressive playing in front of their own fans, so the Reds’ coach, Giannis Sfairopoulos, should make some adjustments ahead of Game 3 (24/4, 19:00 CET), which will certainly play a decisive role in the series.
The Lithuanians took advantage of every mistake the Greeks made during the game and never lost control.
Thanks to their excellent game plan and with Brandon Davies being dominant inside the paint, Zalgiris achieved their target and stole the home-court advantage, taking the upper hand in the series.
Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius is not expected to make many changes to his tactics ahead of Game 3, but he will want to see all his players be at their very best and offer decent solutions.
On the contrary, the availability of Giorgos Printezis, Janis Strelnieks and Kostas Papanikolaou can change the momentum for Olympiacos, who beat Zalgiris for the first time this season on Friday night.
The Reds defence will once again be their main weapon, having conceded 70 points at the end of regulation in the first two matches.
I am expecting both sides to be solid defensively and fight for every loose ball, just like in Game 2, but Game 3 will probably be the most important one for the Reds.
If they win, they will reclaim the home court advantage and will take the upper hand in the series. If they lose, though, Game 4 will be a do or die one and everything will be on the line.
Real Madrid levelled the series with a 82-89 win in Athens in Game 2. With coach Pablo Laso’s side in need to keep the momentum going in Spain, can the Greens turn things around and beat the Spaniards at the Wizink Center?
Real Madrid played very well offensively in Game 2 and their excellent three-point percentage allowed them to take control of the game, shooting 55% from deep, on 11 of 20, to beat Panathinaikos.
Coach Laso created a different game plan that enabled his players to remain competitive for the whole game.
With Trey Thompkins and Felipe Reyes scoring crucial points, 12 and 18 respectively, and Jaycee Carroll being unstoppable from long range, with 17 points and four threes, Real were also dominant inside the paint, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds compared to the Greens’ four.
For their part, Panathinaikos missed the opportunity to take a significant advantage over Real Madrid and now are in a vulnerable position.
The Greens played poor defence in Game 2, letting their opponents dominate them inside the paint, with a rebound advantage of 24-43. A similar performance on Wednesday will prevent them from being victorious in Game 3.
Mike James was the top scorer once more with 20 points, but more players need to step up and play better on Wednesday (25/4, 18:45 CET), if they are to reclaim the home court advantage.
Coach Xavi Pascual should make some adjustments ahead of Game 3, especially in defence, as the Whites are unstoppable at home and can easily decimate the Greens, if Panathinaikos are not tough defensively.
The Greens will try to play tough defence and score in transition, just like they did in Game 1. If they do this successfully, they will be in a position of strength to turn things around and beat Real Madrid.
Although their lack of consistency is their main characteristic this season, especially on the road with just six wins in 15 away games, an equally high shooting percentage will make them difficult to beat.
On the other end of the floor, they should not allow Real Madrid to score 80 or more points in the game or let them reach their season average of 87 points, if they are to steal a victory in Madrid.
Last but not least, Panathinaikos should play excellent defence, especially in the perimeter, as Real’s shooting percentage will be a game changer in the match, just like in Game 2 (11/20, 55%),
An identical number in threes will help the Spaniards take the upper hand in the game. Sergio Llull may return to action on Wednesday, yet it would be risky for coach Laso to let him play following his nine-month absence.
Overall, both Olympiacos and Panathinaikos have the talent and quality to beat Zalgiris and Real Madrid, respectively, and reclaim the home-court advantage en route to the Final Four.
They will need to be tremendous on both ends of the floor to do this, though. Otherwise, they will be on the verge of elimination.