Game Center: Regular Season, Round 24
Crucial clashes abound in Round 24 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season, including a Game of the Week which will pit together two of the league’s hottest teams, while the reigning champions travel to face a perennial power in desperate need of a win.
The first action comes from Lithuania where the Game of the Week will see Fenerbahce Istanbul (15-8) aim for its sixth win in seven games against a Zalgiris Kaunas team (10-13) which has won four of the last five. Zalgiris’s physical approach is shown by its record of having committed more fouls than any other team (23.9 per game), while the host also has the league’s best free-throw conversion rate (81.6%). Fenerbahce will look to exploit its long-range scoring prowess, boasting the fourth-best three-point shooting percentage in the competition (39.1%).
In Istanbul, Galatasaray Odeabank (7-16) will attempt to derail the nine-game winning run of Real Madrid (18-5), which would secure a playoff place with a win. Although Madrid’s offense grabs the headlines, its defense has also stepped up in recent weeks, allowing an average of just 77 points over the last three games. That’s partly due to a lack of turnovers, with Madrid ranked first in the competition in assist-turnover ratio (181.4%). Galatasaray’s chief offensive threat comes from downtown – the Turkish team has the league’s third-best three-point shooting conversion rate (39.4%).
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (13-10) is looking for a seventh win in its last eight home games with the visit of Brose Bamberg (8-15), which is on a four-game losing slide on the road. Zvezda’s defense allowed a joint-season best 58 points last week, while Bamberg has shipped an average of 84.2 points in its last five games. One clear disparity between the teams is in steals: Zvezda leads the league with 8.6 per game, while Bamberg ranks next-to-last in that category with an average of just 5.2.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (8-15) will seek to boost its flagging playoff ambitions at home to Olympiacos Piraeus (16-7). Maccabi can draw confidence from the fact that its last road win came in Piraeus in Round 9, but will need to take better care of the ball after committing the joint-most turnovers in the league (14.7 per game). Olympiacos, meanwhile, could do with sharing the ball more efficiently, currently ranked last in assists with 14.9 per game. Expect a big rebounding battle between the teams ranked first (Olympiacos, 37.1 per game) and sixth (Maccabi, 34.4 per game) in the league.
Finally on Thursday, Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (12-11) needs to arrest a run of six defeats in seven games which has jeopardised its place in the top half of the standings. Visiting EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (7-16) knows its playoff chances are receding, but poses plenty of threat with an offense ranked fourth in the league in scoring (82.7 per game). Baskonia, meanwhile, will look to expose Milan’s defense, which has allowed more points than any other team (87.7 per game), but the host needs to improve its next-to-last ranking in three-point shooting conversion (34.1%).
On Friday, two teams who have been heading in different directions recently meet as Unics Kazan (7-16) looks for its first victory in seven games against visiting Anadolu Efes Istanbul (12-11), which has won three in a row to climb into the playoff positions. Efes is a high performer in several categories, ranked first in the league in offensive rebounds (13.3 per game) and second in steals (7.3 per game). Unics, by contrast, is the third-lowest scoring team in the competition with an average of 76.8 points.
Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (11-12) will look to revive its form after a run of just one win in five games against visiting Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (14-9), which has won three straight with a consistent offensive production of 84, 81 and 83 points. The game could be decided by which team improves its shooting close to the basket – Darussafaka is ranked 15th in two-pointers made, averaging 18.3 per game, with Panathinaikos faring only a little better (18.5). They are both excellent three-point shooters, however, with Panathinaikos ranked second in triples made (9.7 per game) and Darussafaka third (9.4 per game).
And finally, FC Barcelona Lassa (9-14) will hope its winning streak extends beyond one game with the visit of reigning champ CSKA Moscow (17-6), which could advance into the playoffs with a victory, but only if Darussafaka loses its own game. It’s a meeting between the league’s best and worst offenses, with CSKA averaging 87.9 points per game while Barcelona has managed just 72.9. The foul line could play a big role: the Russian team leads the league in both fouls drawn (22.4 per game) and converted (18.1 per game), but Barcelona has committed fewer fouls (18.2 per game) than any other team.
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