Four 7DAYS EuroCup powers will take the floor on Wednesday and for two of them it will be the end of the road in the competition this season. Let’s look at the main storylines in play for Game 3 of the EuroCup Quarterfinals.
Teams battle the entire 7DAYS EuroCup campaign for the best possible record and to put themselves in the position that Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia and FC Bayern Munich hold this week – hosting the final and decisive game of a series. The best-of-three format made its debut last season when four of seven series reached Game 3s and home and road teams went 2-2 in those do-or-die third games. That could indicate that both games this week are up for grabs. And that might really be the case. Bayern won its first game over UNICS Kazan by 8 points, only for UNICS to win Game 2 by 7. Both games between Reggio Emilia and Zenit St. Petersburg last week were decided by 14 points. Bayern is 9-0 at home in the EuroCup this season and Reggio Emilia is 7-2, having won five in a row. However, despite their home-dominance, expect close encounters on Wednesday, and - by just looking at last year’s numbers - to see at least one road team progress to the semifinals.
Bayern not wanting déjà vu
Last season Bayern was in the same position it faces this week. It won quarterfinals Game 1 at home against eventual champion Unicaja Malaga and then went on the road and lost Game 2. In the deciding game on its home floor, Bayern trailed the entire night and was finally ousted 69-74. Last season, Bayern was 8-1 on its home floor going into Game 3 and this year it is undefeated in nine games. Coach Sasha Djordjevic, who was on the bench last season too, has eight players who dressed for last season’s game back, including some of the key pieces like the frontcourt of Devin Booker, Danilo Barthel and Maik Zirbes, as well as Reggie Redding, Nihad Dedovic and Vladimir Lucic. So, this does feel like déjà vu, however, Bayern hopes to rewrite that chapter on Wednesday.
First time semis await
Whichever team comes out on top in the other series on Wednesday, the winner between Reggio Emilia and Zenit will be in the competition semifinals for the first time. Reggio Emilia waited 12 years to return to the quarterfinals after it made its first appearance at this stage of the competition, but was swept in the 2005-06 home-and-away series against Hemofarm Vrsac. Current Reggio Emilia coach Massimiliano Menetti was the assistant at the time and took over the following season in his first stint as a head coach. Menetti has been with the team ever since, apart from one season with fellow Italian side Montegranaro, and is now in his seventh consecutive season as the head coach. So he knows the magnitude and the meaning of what reaching the EuroCup Semifinals would mean for the club, as does Zenit’s head of bench Evgeny Karasev, who has been at this position since 2012 and has never coached any other club. After many attempts, Karasev and Zenit finally reached the quarterfinals last year, but were swept by Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. What Reggio Emilia and Zenit will try to accomplish is something Darussafaka has already done and Bayern will also attempt on Wednesday – to become a first-time EuroCup semifinalist.
A look beyond Wednesday’s games
We still don’t know either of the semifinal matchups, but we are familiar what we could be watching for the rest of the EuroCup playoffs. The winner between Reggio Emilia and Zenit will face undefeated Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in the semifinals, while the survivor between Bayern and UNICS moves on to play Darussafaka Istanbul. Of those matchups, only Darussafaka and UNICS faced each other already this season, and Darussafaka won both of those regular season contests. Lokomotiv hosted Zenit in a VTB League game in December and won 87-84. If Zenit and UNICS pull out road wins in Game 3, the EuroCup Semifinals would feature three Russian squads along with Turkey's Darussafaka. However, Bayern from Germany and Reggio Emilia from Italy will try to make it four teams from four different countries.
Lasme’s record watch and other tidbits
After failing to record a blocked shot for only the second time this season in Game 1, UNICS big man Stephane Lasme had 4 blocks in Game 2 to tie Walter Tavares’s mark of 44 blocks in one season. Tavares needed 23 games in 2014-15, while Lasme has done it in 18 games, and with 1 more block will set a new single-season record. Lasme also needs just 1 block to move into the top five shot-blockers of all-time. Lasme sits in sixth place with 77 blocks in his career and Darjus Lavrinovic is fifth with 78. The career leader is Andre Riddick with 147 blocks. However, Lasme has moved into first place with 1.83 blocks per game for his career, ahead of Riddick’s 1.77. This is Lasme’s second EuroCup season, after winning the crown with Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul and being honored as the EuroCup Finals MVP in 2016. Lasme needs 1 block to re-write the history books and UNICS can also do so with a win in Game 3. UNICS has won nine EuroCup Quarterfinals games over the years and with another against Bayern it would tie Valencia Basket with 10 for the most ever quarterfinal wins in competition history. UNICS has a 9-4 record in quarterfinal games. This is only the second season of best-of-three playoff series, which makes Bayern the only team with previous experience in EuroCup playoffs Game 3. However, as explained above, it was a losing experience Bayern wants to avoid repeating.