Game Center: 3 derbies cap first two-game week for EuroLeague clubs
The 2016-17 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season offers no breaks as Round 4 becomes the first in the history of the competition that is not the sole round played in the same week. After all the teams played on Tuesday or Wednesday, they will each either go on the road or return home from a road game for a second contest within 48 hours on either Thursday or Friday. The hectic schedule won't allow for respite and the pressure will be mounting for the three clubs seeking their maiden victories.
Round 4 opens with a duel between Russian foes and the finalists from last season’s VTB United League, CSKA Moscow (3-0) and Unics Kazan (0-3). This will be the first meeting ever between these clubs in the EuroLeague. While CSKA brings a perfect record into the contest and a 12-game home-court winning streak, Unics has yet to win this season. It will be an interesting game as Unics coach Evgeny Pashutin and guard Evgeny Voronov face their former team, while several Russian national team mates square off.
Thursday’s second tip-off features an Istanbul derby, with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (2-1) seeking its first win at home and Anadolu Efes Istanbul (0-3) looking to get in the win column altogether. Between the two teams’ rosters, the game will feature half of the Turkish national team that competed at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament over the summer in the Philippines. Look for rebounding to be a key factor in this game as Darussafaka (25.7 rpg.) is ranked bottom of the league, while Efes is second-best on the offensive glass (15.7 orpg.).
In a clash of traditional rivals and EuroLeague powers, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (2-1) takes on Real Madrid (2-1). Los Blancos look to bounce back from their first loss and can be confident due to a six-game winning streak against Milan. All signs point to an offensive showdown as Milan (87 ppg.) is ranked third and Madrid (86.3 ppg.) fourth in scoring in the competition.
Thursday action closes with the showdown between Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (2-1) and Olympiacos Piraeus (2-1). The hosts have struggled so far this season with turnovers (15.7 TOpg.), which is something the Reds will surely have taken note of. Both teams are strong inside; Olympiacos (38.3 rpg.) is second in rebounding this season and Baskonia (36 rpg.) is not far behind.
The week’s second Istanbul derby start the Friday slate with Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (0-3) hosting Fenerbahce Istanbul (3-0). This will be the first meeting between the sides in the EuroLeague. It will be an interesting contest for former Fenerbahce captain Emir Preldzic, who will face hos former coach and several ex-teammates. Though Galatasaray (86.3 ppg.)has scored the fourth-point points in the league this season, it has also surrendered the most (97.3 ppg.), while Fenerbahce boasts the stingiest defense in the league with 68.7 points allowed per game.
Zalgiris Kaunas (1-2) will look to return to the win column when it hosts Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1-2), which comes off its first win under new head coach Rami Hadar. The game marks a return for Sonny Weems to the club when he got his European start, while Zalgiris coach Sarunas Jasikevicius faces his former team, which he led to back-to-back EuroLeague crowns in 2004 and 2005. The teams play with very different styles; Maccabi is second in the league in scoring (92.3 ppg.), while Zalgiris is second-bottom (74 ppg.), which could lead to interesting point guard matchups.
After a dramatic road win, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (2-1) returns home to face Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (2-1), which also comes off an uplifting result. Zvezda center Ognjen Kuzmic returns to face the club with whom he debuted in the EuroLeague just last season. The outside shot could be a key factor as the Greens are toed for the most threes through three games (31), while Zvezda’s 40% three-point accuracy is fourth-best in the competition.
The final game in Round 4 sees two teams coming off tough loses, FC Barcelona Lassa (1-2) against Brose Bamberg (1-2). Barcelona continues to battle an injury bug and may be short-handed in this game as well. Barcelona enters Round 4 ranked last in the league in scoring (68.7 ppg.) and with the second-most turnovers (15 TOpg.), which it will look to change at home. Bamberg, with blew a late double-digit lead in its last game, has committed the fewest turnovers (9 TOpg.), but is also among the bottom in offensive rebounding (7.7 orpg.), too.