Regular Season Round 3: Into the first double-header
The new format of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague takes hold in earnest this week with the first "double-header" of fixtures – all teams playing two games each two nights apart – as the continent's top teams prepare for Round Three of the new season on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The action starts on Tuesday as Unics Kazan (0-2) goes in search of its first win of the season at home against Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (1-1) in the first meeting ever between the teams. The host is ranked 14th in the league in scoring, but could find a route to victory in the battle of the boards: Unics is tied for the second-most rebounds in the league (76), while Darussafaka is rock bottom in that department (55). But Darussafaka's energy is shown by its league leadership in steals.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul (0-2) has the tough task of breaking into the win column against visiting champs CSKA Moscow (2-0). Efes's need for all-round improvement is evident from its unwanted ownership of the league's lowest performance index rating. Unbeaten CSKA's success so far has been based upon its shooting accuracy; the Russian team ranks first in two-point conversion rate (64%) and second in three-point accuracy (44%).
Another unbeaten team is EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, which will seek to move to 3-0 by passing the demanding test of a trip to Olympiacos Piraeus (1-1). Teamwork has been the key to Milan's triumphs to date: its players are dishing more assists than any other team (47). Olympiacos will look to dominate physically after establishing itself as the league's top defensive rebounding team (59) through the first two rounds.
And finally, the season's first all-Spanish affair sees in-form Real Madrid (2-0) host last season's sole Final Four team from that country, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (1-1). Madrid's efficiency is shown by the fact that it has committed fewer turnovers than any other team (19) so far. Visiting Baskonia is ranked dead last in that same category (33), so taking care of the ball could be a key aspect of this matchup.
Wednesday tips off with the Game of the Week as Crvena Zvezda MTS Belgrade (1-1) welcomes FC Barcelona Lassa (1-1) to the Serbian capital. The visitors have allowed fewer points than any team but needs offensive spark after registering the second-fewest points tally, too. Zvezda also has room for improvement on offense after committing the second-highest number of turnovers (30) in the first two weeks.
In Istanbul, Fenerbahce (2-0) will seek to lose its status as the league's lowest-scoring team when Zalgiris Kaunas (1-1) comes to visit. Strangely, Fenerbahce is simultaneously the league's least accurate two-point shooting team (38%) and most accurate from three-point range (51%). Zalgiris will rely on its physical power after claiming far more rebounds (88) so far than any other team.
Two 1-1 teams looking for second victories meet in Germany as Brose Bamberg hosts a Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens team under the guidance of new coach Xavi Pascual. If it comes down to free throws, the home team could have the edge: Bamberg has missed just one free throw so far this season for a 96% conversion rate, while Panathinaikos ranks last in that category after netting just 68% of its free throw attempts.
And finally, a first victory is assured for two as-yet-winless teams as another new coach, Rami Hadar, takes charge of Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv against visiting Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul. Both teams have been successful enough offensively during the first two games, ranking third and fifth, respectively, in scoring. But their mutual area for improvement is clear: Galatasaray ranks last in points allowed (97 points per game) and Maccabi (94) next-to-last.
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