Game Center: Regular Season Round 19
The latest double-week of fixtures sees Round 18 take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, including one team travelling to face its former long-serving coach and a must-win local derby in the race for playoff positions.
The first tip-off comes from Russia, where Unics Kazan (7-11) will seek a return to winning ways against Fenerbahce Istanbul (11-7), which suffered its first defeat this season against Unics in Round 5. It probably won't be a shoot-out between the 13th- and 14th-highest scorers in the league – Unics averages 77.8 points per game compared to Fenerbahce's 77.4. Unics will be confident after winning four of its last five home games, while the Turkish team has suffered defeat on three of its last four road trips.
The Game of the Week will be a dogfight between two teams who can't afford many more lapses as Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (5-13) hosts Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (6-12). Galatasaray has lost five of its last six games while Maccabi has won only one in 10. The Turkish team's main strength is sharing the ball, ranking third in the league in assists with 18.9 per game, while Maccabi is the fourth-most accurate team in both two- (53.8%) and three-point (39.1%) shooting.
Two teams heading in different directions meet in Lithuania, where Zalgiris Kaunas (6-12) has lost three consecutive games ahead of its meeting with league-leading CSKA Moscow (14-4), which has won its last two games by a cumulative total of 58 points. Zalgiris hasn't triumphed at home since November, but will look to make the most of its rebounding advantage, averaging 35.6 boards per game compared to CSKA's 32.7. Stopping CSKA's top-ranked offense, which averages 88.9 points per game, is the main task for Zalgiris.
In Greece, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (10-8) coach Xavi Pascual welcomes his former team, FC Barcelona Lassa (8-10), for a key battle in the playoff race. Panathinaikos has lost three of its last four games, only prevailing in the other after overtime, and was held to a season-low 57 points in its Round 10 defeat in Barcelona, but has committed fewer turnovers than any other team (11 per game). The visitors have lost six consecutive games on the road, averaging just 64.5 points per game during that run.
Finally on Tuesday, something has to give as Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (11-7) will look for its eighth consecutive home victory while visiting Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (10-8) has won five games in a row. Zvezda's tough defense is partly explained by claiming more steals than any other team, 8.2 per game, and the Serbian team has also conceded the second-fewest turnovers (11.5 per game). But if anyone can overcome Zvezda's defense, it might be Baskonia, which has exceeded 100 points in its last two home games.
Wednesday's action starts with a big Istanbul derby as Anadolu Efes (8-10) attempts to narrow the gap to just one game on Darussafaka Dogus (10-8). Efes's only wins in the last seven rounds have come against bottom-placed Galatasaray, while Darussafaka has been victorious in its last two games. The battle for offensive rebounds could be crucial: Efes leads the league in that category with an average of 13.5 per game, while Darussafaka is ranked third with 11.2 per game.
Brose Bamberg (7-11) will attempt to avenge a heavy Round 13 defeat to Real Madrid (13-5) as the teams meet again in Germany. Expect plenty of long-range bombs between the competition's leading three-point scorers. Madrid averages 9.8 strikes from downtown, closely followed by Bamberg with 9.7. Bamberg is looking for its fourth consecutive home win, while the visitors have won four in a row to maintain their challenge for first place.
And finally, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (5-13) will hope that last week's victory – its first in 11 games – will propel a return to form as high-flying Olympiacos Piraeus (13-5) comes to town. The Greek giant has won nine of its last 10 games and boasts the best defense in the league, allowing just 72.8 points per game. The home team will attempt to test that record with its inside game, having converted more two-point shots (22.4 per game) than any other team.
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