Regular Season, Round 18
Round 18 of the Regular Season provides a series of must-win match-ups in the race for the playoffs, including a legendary coach facing his former team and a big battle between the two teams currently placed third and fourth in the standings.
The action starts in Russia, where CSKA Moscow (13-4) will attempt to maintain its return to form against Brose Bamberg (7-10). Last week saw first-placed and top-scoring CSKA reach treble figures for the third time this season, while Bamberg was held to a season-low 58 points in defeat. It could be a shoot-out, because these are the two most efficient offensive teams in the competition, with CSKA's league-best true shooting percentage of 53% closely followed by Bamberg's 51%.
In Istanbul, Fenerbahce (10-7) coach Zeljko Obradovic will welcome former team Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (10-7) to break their tie for fifth place. Panathinaikos would like a low-scoring game – the Greek team has the league's third-best defense, allowing just 74.3 points per game, while Fenerbahce is the third-lowest scorer with an average of 75.8 points. But Panathinaikos could struggle if it doesn't shed its status as the competition's worst free-throw shooting team (71.7%).
Crvena Zvezda MTS Belgrade (9-8) will attempt to maintain its outstanding form by claiming its fifth consecutive victory with a trip to Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (6-11). Zvezda won by 25 when the teams met a month ago, but Maccabi has become much more competitive since then, with four of its last five games being decided by no more than five points. Maccabi has the league's third-best true shooting percentage (50.2%) and will need that efficiency against a Zvezda team which allows the second fewest number of points per game (73.6).
The league's basement dwellers go head to head as EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (4-13) aim to snap a 10-game losing streak against Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (5-12). Not surprisingly, these two teams have conceded more points than anyone else, with Milan allowing 87.8 points per game and Galatasaray 85.3. Both have some cause for optimism: Galatasaray is ranked first in blocked shots (3.82 per game), while Milan is third in two-pointers made (22.2 per game).
Finally on Thursday, two teams aiming to bounce back from close losses meet as FC Barcelona Lassa (7-10) welcomes Anadolu Efes Istanbul (8-9). Barcelona are by far the competition's lowest scorers, averaging 71.4 points per game and only 66 in its last two losses. Efes, in contrast, boasts the third-strongest offense in the league with 82.8 points per game, and the third-worst defense after allowing an average of 84.1 points.
On Friday, Unics Kazan (7-10) will look for its fifth win in six games with a trip to Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (9-8). The Turkish team has conceded at least 81 points in each of its last four games, partly explaining why it has the league's third-worst overall performance index rating (82.76 per game). Unics's preference for the paint is illustrated by the Russian team scoring fewer three-pointers than any other team (7.1 per game), but netting the fourth-highest number of two-pointers (21.5 per game).
In the Game of the Week, second-placed Real Madrid (12-5) travels to face a Zalgiris Kaunas team (6-11) which has lost three straight at home. Madrid's high-performing offense ranks first in the league in performance index rating (102.1 per game), assists (20.2 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (174.1%). Zalgiris, meanwhile, has been the competition's most effective team from the foul line, converting 81.9% of its free throws.
And finally, third-placed Olympiacos Piraeus (12-5) hosts fourth-placed Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (11-6). It's a battle of the league's best rebounders, with Baskonia's total haul of 37.2 boards per game marginally better than Olympiacos's total of 37.1. The Greek host has seen its defense reach peak performance in recent weeks, allowing an average of just 66 points in the last three games, all of which resulted in victory. But Olympiacos also has the league's worst assist-to-turnover ratio (113.24%).
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