Game Center, Round 9: The race continues
Round 9 will witness a homecoming of sorts for two members of the Valencia Basket frontcourt when the team touches down in Germany to face Brose Bamberg. Both Tibor Pleiss and Latavious Williams made their EuroLeague debuts with Brose. There is plenty of history between Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and Real Madrid, not the least of which is sharpshooter K.C. Rivers of the Greens having won the EuroLeague with Los Blancos in 2015.
Zalgiris Kaunas vs Anadolu Efes Istanbul
After having two-game winning runs stopped in their tracks, Zalgiris (4-4) and Efes (2-6) will look to get back on track. Efes ranks second in the league in rebounding with 37.1 per game and will hope Vladimir Stimac and Bryant Dunston can control the boards against a Zalgiris team that averages just 32.3 rebounds. But Zalgiris has much better shooting percentages than the visitors and stronger offensive collective play evidenced by a far higher number of assists, with Zalgiris dishing 19.1 per game compared to just 14.1 – the lowest tally in the league – for Efes.
Brose Bamberg vs Valencia Basket
Brose (4-4) will attempt to bury the memory of last week’s fourth quarter collapse in Milan and climb into the top half of the standings by overcoming Valencia Basket (3-5), which desperately wants a change in momentum after losing four straight. Valencia needs to find a scoring alternative to Erick Green, and the answer could lie in the paint where former Brose star Tibor Pleiss will hope to damage his former club. The two teams are well matched in every important statistical category and this first ever EuroLeague meeting could well be decided by the small details.
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan vs Olympiacos Piraeus
An intriguing battle awaits in the fashion capital, where fast-improving Milan (3-5) aims for its third straight win against visiting co-leader Olympiacos (6-2), which has also won its last two games. Milan’s victories last week came courtesy of startling late comebacks, but it’s unlikely the Italian team would be given a chance to mount another recovery operation against an Olympiacos defense that has conceded a league low 69.9 points per game. Keeping it close will therefore be key for Milan, which would benefit from maintaining its record of committing the lowest number of turnovers in the competition (9.9 per game).
FC Barcelona Lassa vs Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
After a much-needed victory last week, Barcelona (3-5) will be eager to jump-start its season by winning two consecutive games for the first time. But it won’t be easy against a high-flying Maccabi (5-3) team which has won two of its three road games this season. Defense will be key for Barcelona, which has held its opponents to 71 points or fewer in its three wins, but allowed at least 78 points in each of its five defeats. Maccabi is an expert at claiming second scoring chances, grabbing the third-highest number of offensive rebounds in the league (12.6 per game), while Barcelona ranks last in that category (6.6 per game).
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade vs Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
Two teams heading in opposite directions meet in Belgrade, with Zvezda (2-6) dropping to the bottom of the standings with a four-game losing streak while Baskonia (3-5) has won three of its last four. Zvezda has failed to reach 70 points in any of those recent losses, and will surely have to do so to defeat a Baskonia team which boasts the fourth-best offense in the EuroLeague, averaging 80.5 points per game. Big man Milko Bjelica will have an important role against his former team, and Zvezda will have to be wary of the long-range shooting prowess of a Baskonia team that has hit more three-pointers – 10.1 per game – than anyone else.
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul vs Khimki Moscow Region
After a dramatic overtime win over CSKA last week, Fenerbahce’s (5-3) morale will be high for the visit of a Khimki (5-3) team that has lost its last two games. Khimki’s main issue is clear: the Russian team has allowed the second-highest number of points in the league, 82.1 per game, but its previously potent offense has also stuttered recently, scoring just 65 and 69 points in the last two losses. Fenerbahce is the most accurate three-point shooting team in the EuroLeague, converting 43.6% of its attempts from downtown, with James Nunnally particularly dangerous after making 11 of his last 17 shots from beyond the arc.
Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens vs Real Madrid
Two traditional heavyweights go head to head in Athens where Panathinaikos (5-3) welcome Real Madrid (5-3) for another game that will break the tie for joint-third place. It will be tough for either coach to surprise the other, with the home team’s Xavi Pascual and visiting Pablo Laso facing off on dozens of occasions during the former’s time in Barcelona. The backcourt battle between the league’s top-ranked performer Luka Doncic (28.0 average PIR) and leading assister Nick Calathes (7.4 assists per game) will be particularly great to watch. Both came close to registering triple-doubles last week and the question of which one shines the brightest could decide the outcome.
Unicaja Malaga vs CSKA Moscow
Co-leader CSKA (6-2) will attempt to take out its frustrations from last week’s overtime loss to Fenerbahce when it travels to face an Unicaja team that has lost its last two games. It’s a meeting between the league’s best and worst offenses, with CSKA averaging 87.1 points per game while Unicaja has mustered just 69.8. The home team will therefore try to keep it tight and limit the influence of Nando De Colo, who has scored at least 16 points in each of his last five games. To have a realistic chance, Unicaja also needs to improve its three-point shooting conversion rate of 28.5%, the lowest in the competition.