Previewing Dante Exum's Final Four showdown with archrivals Real Madrid
Barcelona advanced to the EuroLeague Final Four, after a hardfought quarterfinal series win against Bayern Munich. How will Exum fare?
After a long and trophy-laden campaign, Dante Exum and Barcelona will meet archrivals Real Madrid in the EuroLeague Final Four on Friday morning (Australian time), in a clash that is sure to carry a cultural weight that more than sizes up to the occasion of a EuroLeague semi-final.
The two Spanish heavyweights have been on a collision course all season: they finished as the top seeds entering the domestic postseason (Barcelona finished first by two games), they met in the Copa del Rey final (Barcelona came out on top there too) and the Spanish Supercup final (Madrid won that one), and they both produced strong seasons on the continent, with each locking in home-court advantage for the best-of-five quarterfinal series.
While Real Madrid coasted to the Final Four, dispatching the five-seed Maccabi Tel Aviv in three games, Barcelona had their hands full against Bayern Munich, who, despite scraping into the playoffs as the eight-seed, needed all five games - and a herculean effort from former Spanish League MVP Nico Laprovíttola - to see off their German counterparts.
Albeit in very different fashions, each side gladly punched their ticket to the Belgrade Final Four tournament, and with that, another chapter of the age-old Spanish rivalry was waiting to be written, with the right to play in the EuroLeague final against either Anadolu Efes or Olympiacos on the line.
While played at a neutral venue, the match will likely have all the traits of an El Clásico played on Spanish hardwood. Referees generally allow more physicality in big games, which will likely benefit both sides in their personal grudge match against one another.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Pick and Roll to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.