Final four is something different, we cannot see that kind of competition in NBA (every series will play until winning team reach four wins), something like this we can see in NCAA basketball, but still not on this level, I must admit F4 this season in NCAA was outstanding, but F4 of Euroleague is more professional and definitely will be more intense. In Final four, one game, one possession, one ball and one basket will decide winner, no matter if that is semi-finals or game for 3rd place or final itself. There is no room for mistake (at least shouldn't be) but mistakes is one of the reasons which decide winners in the end.
Not always team with best players reach F4, much more important is team spirit, chemistry in that team, how players understand each other and how they fight for each other. Clear example this season is Efes or Panathinaikos, two team which played in Top 8, two teams with outstanding rosters but simply when money build your roster you cannot expect to have results first season, if they hold some important players next season maybe we will see both of them in the F4 next season, but at the moment the best teams are in this years Final four.
A lot of people wonder, which things deciding winner, what is most important to pay attention on, I will try to answer these questions.
As I said before, in my opinion most important thing is team spirit and team chemistry, but teams on Final four wouldn't be there if they didn't had good team spirit and good team chemistry, so in this department differences are very small but still very important.
Second thing is if any team have home court advantage, if any team have more supporters on games that is reason more for backing them, because fans are X-factor in many games, they putting pressure on opponents and they give wings to their team, this factor is very important, I already wrote how Celtics reach conference finals this year, especially in second round against Wizards.
Third important factor is player experience, to play in games like this one, when one mistake can cost you whole game, if you have young team you cannot expect that they are able to handle pressure in decisive moments, they will make a lot of mistakes, mistakes which they don't make in ordinary games, so every team should have a leader who is able to carry the team in moments like that one, but again, one player isn't enough for that. You cannot expect from one player to play whole 40 minutes (maybe even more with over-time) on same level, in some point due to fatigue even leaders will start to make mistakes, so you need to have more players with big experience in crucial games which can lead youngsters to glory.
Fourth factor is coach who leads the team, there is no question that best coaches for that season are already in the final four, but similar like with players, these coaches need to have experience in these kind of competitions, they need to know how to motivate players when players fall down, they need to know how to make the most from one possession after time-out and that kind of thing separates ordinary coaches from outstanding coaches.
During last, let's say, twenty years, we had a lot of outstanding coaches, people like Dusan Ivkovic, Ettore Messina, Pini Gershon, Zeljko Obradovic, Bozidar Maljkovic, all these coaches made a difference for their teams, they really know how basketball works, what to do and what they can expect from their players, so coach department is also one of the important factors when you want to see which team has better chances to win.
And fifth factor, is luck, on this department no one of us or players cannot affect, we can just hope that luck will be on our side, neither one team can shoot 100% that is simply impossible, but if any team starting to hit from every position (over opponents hands, in last seconds, to hit circus shots) than we cannot say that is players ability or that player is that good, luck must be include in that, I remember few years ago (this isn't about Euroleague F4) something like that happened in ABA league, final game between Partizan and Cibona, Cibona hit the three pointer for lead 74-72 and than on 0.6 second before end Kecman hit three pointer from almost whole court and Partizan won that one 75-74, that kind of things are part and parcel of basketball so you must take that in consideration.
These above were overall factors which can decide winners on the end, but of course, there is plenty of other factors which can decide winners.
One of them is teams style of play, and again style of play depends mostly on coaches but also on players which are at the disposal of the coach, we have coaches which like to force offensive style and in that kind of situations you must have players which can play that way. A lot of shooters and a lot of scorers, on the other side we have coaches which like to rely on defence and I must admit over recent years more and more coaches trying much more to improve defence than offense, because defence winning championships.
So believe or not in training sessions much more time is spent on defensive movement and man-to-man defence than on any other part of the game, probably coaches also thinking like me, it's easier to make good defender than to make outstanding shooter who will score from any position, is that true or not time will show, but it's very rare to see player who can play excellent defence and be excellent on offensive end. So when we have two different styles facing each other, I will always give the advantage to strong defence, reason is simple, if you will be able to stop opponents from scoring and force them into mistake that will open space for you to run in transition, that will open space for you to slow down tempo and on the end that will open space to play your style and while defensive team can adapt to play offensively pretty easy, offensive teams have hard time to improve in defence when they offense doesn't work.
Second factor is how many great players one team has? In NBA and NCAA, teams relies on best players a lot, give them a ball and let them play, in European basketball we don't have such thing, of course there is great players and average players, but teams is at first place. Still we cannot ignore the fact that one player is much better than others, and we cannot ignore the fact that exactly that player is able to decide winner on the end, so in this department we should compare best player from one team with best player from opposing team
How these two players affect team, how much is their influence, are they scoring first or passing first, are they trying hard on defence or just let others to do their job. That kind of things are very important mostly when team losing, because than we can see true face of team spirit and team chemistry, when team winning everything is good and all players are happy, but when the team is losing will their best players take responsibilities or will they blame others, to simplify is the best player capable to sacrifice himself for the team. Pay attention on this area, because player personality is very important in these kind of games.
And for me maybe the least important factor but for others maybe the most important factor, how much natural scorers one team has (isn't a whole point of basketball to score more points than other team, for me isn't). We live in era when Cleveland has eight or nine natural scorers, so someone will say that is very important thing, I agree that is important but not decisive, of course it's much better thing to have at the same time four or five solutions to finish attack than two or three, and this is important when two teams which playing similar style of basketball facing each other, those which have more scorers probably will win that battle.
All above was about who will win the battle between two teams, but we have three more markets in betting when we can make some profit, I mean on Asian Handicap, Totals and Player performance on the end. Now take a look on these kind of predications.
For Asian Handicap we can use same guidelines like for winner’s predictions, but still we have few more things to pay attention on. First of all, bookies over the years improved a lot in this area, and now they are able to put margin on exact point like that game will finish, can you beat that, of course, but more important question is how often you can beat them and how to beat them.
When we talking about tournament competitions like Final four of Euroleague is, we cannot expect that favourites always win or that they will cover handicap every time. Defensive minded teams are always capable to play tight games and more than often they are able to defend handicap when they are set as underdogs, on other side defensive minded teams aren't always capable to cover handicap when they are set as favourites.
When we speak about offensive minded teams, when they are favourites they are capable to cover handicap, they will start to scoring in bunches and eventually they will cover that margin, but I will be careful with this one in situation when offensive minded team who is favourite facing defensive minded team, because in that case defensive minded team know that their only chance to win that game is to play hard on defensive end and try to limit that opponent on small amount of points. The last case is when offensive minded team set as underdog, I suggest to skip betting on Asian Handicap in that case, because in that kind of games everything can happened and is very hard to predict who will win.
About betting on total points. In this area bookies also improved and now, similar like for Asian Handicap, is very hard to predict will we see over or under in that game. Clearly when two defensive minded teams facing each other logical bet is under, when two offensive minded teams facing each other logical choice is betting on over.
But take a look when offensive minded team facing defensive minded, which approach we should have in that kind of situation?
Whoever read all of the above probably expect to see that I suggest to take under bet, but in the matter of fact I will not suggest something like that, in these kind of situations you should pay attention on line-ups, of course almost all teams in starting line-ups have one point guard, one shooting guard, one small forward, one power forward and one centre, so pay attention on big men here, are they scorers or not (I mean on power forwards at first place).
How good are they on free throw line, and most important thing how deep rotation on power forward and centre position teams have, because if they have only three players to rotate on these two positions than we will see more small line-ups, that means on court at the same time will be more scorers, will be better shooters, and tempo in that period will be much higher than in rest of the game, so when you choosing over and under when offensive minded team facing defensive minded team, much more attention you should pay on rotation (bench) players than on starting line-up and how that bench players gel with starting unit.
On the end, betting on players performances. During years this kind of bets became very popular, a lot of people thinks that is the easiest way to make profit, but in my opinion betting on player’s performances (points, assists and rebounds) is equally risky as betting on any other market. When you choosing to bet on points you will choose players which are scorers, and there is no question about it, but you also need to pay attention which player from opposing team will defend your player, on this way you will try to find mismatch and only then you should take that bet, of course even if there isn't mismatch player can reach margin which bookies set, but we are talking about safer bets and bets which provide more security, all others are pure gambling.
When you bet on rebounds usually you need to choose players which playing on power forward and centre positions, but also pay attention how good are opposing teams on offensive rebounds and how good opposing team defend their own paint (will they allow a lot offensive rebounds or not) and of course is that exact play good rebounder or just average.
When we pick players for assists we usually picking point guards for that, but we need a few parameters to be filled before that selection, first of all how good scorers are his teammates, point guard which have a lot of natural scorers and good perimeter shooters will make more assists, but beside that you need to pay attention how often point guard use his big men (power forward and centre) in pick&roll and pick&pop game, point from these two kind of plays in almost 75% of situation finished with pass instead of point guard to finish, and last factor for picking players to reach margin for assists is how good passer he is and will he choose to pass first or score first.
In the end, when one of the teams are defensive minded, good bets are always on rebounders because in that kind of games we have a lot of missed shots and a lot of chances for rebounds.
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