A new chapter will be written on Wednesday in one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in European basketball that dates back deep in the the time of the Soviet Union. CSKA puts its undefeated record on the line against Zalgiris, which has not lost a road game yet this season. However, Zalgiris has never defeates CSKA in Moscow before, either.
Nate Wolters arrived in Kaunas over the summer and has slid right into the shoes of the All-EuroLeague guard he replaced, Kevin Pangos. Wolters leads Zalgiris in scoring (15.1 ppg.) and assists (5.4 apg.), but this time he will be pitted against a former MVP, Sergio Rodriguez (10.7 ppg., 5.6 apg.), at the point guard spot. It will be among the many important duels that make up this game.
Former EuroLeague MVP Nando De Colo has twice earned MVP of the Round honors from games he played against Zalgiris. The came in Top 16 Round 13 of the 2015-16 season when he tallied 26 points on just 11 shots, making 3 of 4 three-pointers and all 7 of his free throws for a performance index rating of 35. In Round 5 of last season, De Colo recorded a career-best index rating of 37 in a 94-91 home win with 25 points and 10 assists.
Keys to victory: CSKA
CSKA's front line could be starting to take shape. Alec Peters has emerged as an elite stretch-4 in recent weeks with uncanny shooting ability alongside strong defense. The club registered another big guy this week, Joel Bolomboy, who could make his debut and further strengthen the team inside, where CSKA is already fourth in the league in rebounding (36.9 rpg.). If CSKA uses its depth to control the glass and gets a few threes from the power forward spot, it will always have the opposing defense off balance.
Keys to victory: Zalgiris
Over the past two seasons, Zalgiris has defeated CSKA three times and held the Russian champs far below their scoring average in all of them: 74, 73 and 77 points. Each time Zalgiris hust CSKA in a different way, once forcing it into 21 turnovers, once to 23.8% three-point shooting (5 of 21), and once to 37.8% two-point shooting (14 of 37). How will Coach Saras plan for the Zalgiris defense to stop CSKA this time? That will be a major key for the Lithuanian champs.
Zalgiris captain Paulius Jankunas will be out two weeks with muscle injury.