By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
What needs to happen for Valencia to Win:
No matter if you think he dribbles the air out of the ball or makes selfish assists, when Omar Cook is playing well for Valencia they are a different animal. Since Cook plays so much (31 minutes a game) and doesn’t really like to pass the ball unless he’s sure it’s an assist, the Valencia offense tends to run through him. In Valencia’s 2 loses to Madrid in the playoffs Cook is averaging 5 points, 8 assists, 2.5 turnovers, and a ranking of 5.5. In Valencia’s 2 wins he’s averaging 18 points, 6.5 assists, 1 turnover, and a ranking of 24. Now you tell me how much his play can change the whole dynamic of this Valencia offense. This is some of the best basketball Valencia has played all year with the assertiveness of Cook matched up with both Rafa Martinez and Nando de Colo finally finding their strokes shooting the ball. Cook needs to keep the offense running smoothly and win the head to head match-up with Pablo Prigioni if Valencia wants to advance.
What needs to happen for Madrid to Win:
Dominate the paint. Real Madrid should not be getting out rebounded with their talented stable of bigs. They led the Euroleague in rebounding this year but they have been either tying or barely out-rebounding a smaller Valencia frontline the past 3 games. Madrid needs a combination of Nikola Mirotic, Ante Tomic, Felipe Reyes, and D’Or Fischer to pound the boards on Thursday. In a crazy coincidence Freaknick and I hashed out which Madrid frontcourt players we’d like to see playing crunch time minutes on our most recent cast: http://euroleagueadventures.com/podcast-81-mirotic-or-tomic-ela-goes-speed-dating/.
Prigioni, Sergio Llull, and Carlos Suarez/Clay Tucker are going to all be playing at least 30 minutes in Game 5 and provide the solid consistency for Madrid. No matter who it is, a combo of the above named big men need to step up. In a critical game like this one you usually look towards your veteran leaders. Captain Felipe Reyes needs to be more assertive and tough in this game. He along with D’Or Fischer are the best rebounders on the team and should be getting the bulk of the minutes in the paint to assert Madrid’s tough inside presence. If Reyes, Fischer and Madrid can outrebound Valencia by a good margin and control points in the paint, they should be playing in Barcelona in May.
What I think is going to happen:
At the beginning of the season if I told you one Spanish team would be in the Final Four who would you have picked? Last year’s Eurocup Champion who lost their coach and Eurocup Final Four MVP in the offseason? Valencia was not a popular Final Four pick and it is a real testament to their heart that they made it to an elimination game to make the Final Four. That being said this game is being played in Madrid against a deeper, more experienced Madrid team. With their post advantage and what hopes to be a wild crowd in the Spanish capital, Madrid gets the win and advances. When it comes down to it late in a tight game I’d rather have Prigioni with the ball and the Madrid big men ready for an offensive board than the inconsistent Cook and Valencia.