The 2020-21 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs feature eight fearsome teams. Five of them are former champs and all four teams from the last Final Four are back. There are also two playoff newcomers hoping to get to the Final Four for the first time. Let's have a glance at the four best-of-five series in store for us.
The playoff showdown between top-ranked Barcelona and eighth-placed Zenit will be between two of the finest defenses in the league. While Barcelona allowed the fewest points in the league this season (73.6 ppg.), Zenit was second (74.9). Game 1 of the series will mark just the fifth time these teams have ever played each other; Barcelona won three of the four games to date. Barcelona finished atop the regular-season standings with a 24-10 record and had three winning streaks of at least five games this season, but lost two of its last three games to finish the season. Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius's side is 12-5 at home this season. Zenit, which won three in a row to finish the regular season in eighth place with a 20-14 record, had a winning record (10-7) on the road this season. Its coach, Xavi Pascual, should feel comfortable in Barcelona, too; he spent nine seasons on the sidelines at Palau Blaugrana, led Barcelona to the 2010 EuroLeague crown and coached Jasikevicius during the 2012-13 season.
Milan will compete in the EuroLeague Playoffs for the first time since 2014 against a Bayern squad dipping its toes into the playoffs for the first time. Milan beat Bayern twice in the regular season with an overtime victory on opening night and a 24-point rout in Round 21. Coach Ettore Messina's Milan had a six-game winning streak during the season, but lost three of its final five regular-season games to finish in fourth place with a 21-3 record. However, Milan has the home-court advantage for the series and was 7-2 at home in the second half of the regular season. Bayern, which had the same record as Milan, but finished fifth as a result of a tiebreaker, went 8-9 on the road this season. Shooting threes could be something to watch in the series as Milan ranked second in the league at 41.5%, but Bayern had the second-best defense against threes at 34.7%. Also noteworthy is that while Bayern, which committed the most fouls in the league (22.9 per game), collected the second-most steals (8.2 spg.), Milan has the second-fewest (6.2 spg.).
These two teams will meet in the postseason for the first time since 2015 when Real won their series 3-1 en route to capturing its record 10th EuroLeague crown at the Final Four in the Spanish capital. The two teams split their two regular-season meetings this season with each winning on the road. Efes placed third in the regular season with a 22-12 record, though it was 14-3 in the second half of the regular season. Real slumped to a 5-6 record in its final 11 games and finished the season in sixth place at 20-14. Three-pointers and blocked shots could play intricate roles in this season. Real (10.3 per game) and Efes (10.1) made the most three-pointers in the league this season. The Real defense led the league in blocked shots (3.4 bpg.) anchored by 2019 EuroLeague Best Defender (1.74 bpg.). Efes counters with two-time Best Defender and the EuroLeague's all-time leader in blocks, Bryant Dunston. Efes ranked second in the league in scoring this season (84.0 ppg.), however, Real is second in total scoring over the past five seasons (84.4 ppg.), setting up an explosive showdown.
This series is a rematch of the 2016 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game, which CSKA won 101-96 after overtime in Berlin. It was just one in a series of close games between CSKA and Fenerbahce; four of their last 10 meetings have gone to overtime, another two have been decided by a single basket and only one by more than 6 points. This season, each team won on the other's home court. CSKA finished the regular season in second place with a 23-10 record and with the longest active winning streak, five games in a row – pending a Round 25 makeup game against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Wednesday. Coach Itoudis's charges led the league this season in scoring (84.1 ppg.), rebounding (36.2 rpg.) and fouls drawn (22.0). Fenerbahce finished its first season under Coach Igor Kokoskov in seventh place with a 20-14 record. Its 10-game winning streak between Rounds 16 and 25 was the second-longest in the league this season behind only CSKA's 12 in a row through November and December.