Here comes the final push! The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season reaches Round 31 with just one team, FC Barcelona, mathematically qualified for the playoffs. Eleven teams remain in the fight for the remaining spots. Every game will be a fight, every possession will count and Round 30 proved it in one game in particular. TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz rallied from a 14-point deficit in the final 4 minutes to beat Zenit St Petersburg in Sibur Arena. It was outstanding and Baskonia was true to its trademark character. Five other teams won on the road. Barcelona used terrific defense to defeat AX Armani Exchange Milan at Mediolanum Forum, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade downed Panathinaikos OPAP Athens behind an outstanding Jordan Loyd, who had 18 points in the final 11 minutes. Valencia Basket and Olympiacos Piraeus also won on the road to stay in the playoff race and CSKA Moscow topped Real Madrid 89-96 in the Spanish capital behind strong performances from Mike James, Johannes Voigtmann and Will Clyburn. Only two teams won at home. FC Bayern Munich edged Anadolu Efes Istanbul on a late block by James Gist and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul won all four quarters against Zalgiris Kaunas.
I had a pretty good round in the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge. It would have been even better if I didn’t change my mind at the very last minute and make Nando De Colo my team captain instead of Edy Tavares. That cost me a few points. Even so, everybody played well, I had three players with more than 30 fantasy points and had a score of 224.0 to rank 897th in the weekly standings. As for the overall standings, I went up a few spots to be 2,100th overall. Not bad, I just have to keep it going and get the team captain right, I guess.
Three trades are allowed before each round until the end of the regular season. I am trading Mario Hezonja of Panathinaikos because his team plays on the road against Efes, one of the hottest teams in the competition right now. I am also selling Jordan Mickey of Khimki Moscow Region because his team is eliminated and plays against a physical, defensive team in Zenit. Finally, I am selling Vasilije Micic of Efes simply because I want a different point guard and I want to keep the other two I have.
So I need two forwards – one of them a small forward – and a point guard to complete my team. I am adding Mike James of CSKA because he comes off a huge game against Real and should keep his personal momentum going, as his team tries to lock up a playoff spot. The same can be said about Will Clyburn, who had a PIR of 30 against Real, hitting all kinds of shots, helping on the boards and showing the best version of himself. Clyburn has already played five EuroLeague games after his injury and is ready to play his role as one of CSKA’s leaders. Last but not least, I am adding Vladimir Lucic of Bayern. He had a PIR of 35 against Valencia earlier this season, it is his former team and Bayern may punch its playoff ticket in Round 31, so what’s not to like?
At this time of the season, fantasy money is not an issue: if you played well, you should be able to afford all the best players in the game. Here is my lineup before Round 31:
Mike James, CSKA Moscow (PG) – Bringing him back, as CSKA comes off a great performance and keeps fighting for a playoff spot and the potential home-court advantage.
Nando De Colo, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (SG) – He has been playing well lately, so I don’t see why I should sell him. He is a EuroLeague superstar in good shape, after all.
Vladimir Lucic, FC Bayern Munich (SF) – Lucic won the 7DAYS EuroCup with Valencia and is always motivated to play against his former team. Bayern needs him at his best.
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona (PF) – Barcelona is fighting for home-court advantage in the playoffs and Mirotic is its undeniable leader. I’m making him team captain in Round 31.
Edy Tavares, Real Madrid (C) – He played really well against ASVEL earlier this season. Tavares has been rock-solid lately and faces a big matchup against Moustapha Fall.
Jordan Loyd, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (G) – Loyd had a huge performance against Panathinaikos and should keep leading his team for the remainder of the season.
Will Clyburn, CSKA Moscow (F) – Clyburn has been up and down lately, but his game against Real should be a turning point. He could be a difference-maker in Round 31, fantasy-wise.
Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (U) – Vesely is at his best level and at the prime of his career. He will be in my team unless he slows down, which seems unlikely.
So this is all I have before Round 31. Enjoy the games and remember, we are here to entertain you. The end of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season comes at the same time as the start of the 7DAYS EuroCup Playoffs. What a great time to be a European basketball fan! Have an even better time by playing the EuroLeague Fantasy Challenge!
Seen at: Euroleague.net