Game Center: Regular Season, Round 28
With just three games of the Regular Season remaining, there are still plenty of burning issues to be decided as Round 28 includes a Game of the Week between a pair of playoffs-bound teams aiming to capture a bigger prize.
The action starts with a cracking Istanbul derby as Anadolu Efes (15-12) hosts Fenerbahce (17-10). Both teams have a lot at stake, with Efes potentially just one more victory away from sealing a spot in the playoffs and Fenerbahce needing to keep control of home-court advantage. Efes is in flying form with six wins in seven games, while injury-hit Fenerbahce has lost two of its last three. The host claims a considerable advantage in rebounding (36 per game versus 32.1), but Fenerbahce shoots with greater accuracy, converting 52.4% of two-point attempts against Efes’s 49.8%.
In Tel Aviv, a new-look and rejuvenated Maccabi FOX (10-17) welcomes a Zalgiris Kaunas (12-15) team which simply must win to keep its playoff dreams intact. Maccabi seems to have turned a corner in recent weeks, winning two of its last three games by scoring an average of 86.7 points in those contests. Zalgiris will attempt to quell that offensive threat with physicality – the Lithuanian champ has committed more fouls than any other team this season, 23.4 per game, and drawn the joint fifth-highest amount (20.7 per game).
Two eliminated teams still have pride to play for as rock-bottom EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (7-20) hosts Brose Bamberg (9-18). No team has allowed more points than Milan’s 86.9 per game, giving encouragement to a Bamberg team which ranks 6th in the league in scoring (79.2 points per game). But Milan can also score, with its average of 81.1 points better than any other team in the bottom half of the standings, so the outcome could well be decided by which team puts up greater defensive resistance.
Finally on Thursday, the Game of the Week sees red-hot Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (16-11) gun for its fifth consecutive victory with the visit of Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (16-11). Both teams have already qualified for the playoffs but are still hoping to seal home-court advantage, with Baskonia possibly having the chance to rise into fourth place by the end of the night after sweeping Fenerbahce earlier in the season. Panathinaikos does not have that luxury, and needs to improve its offensive production on the road after averaging just 68.7 points in its last six games away from Athens.
On Friday, a Russian derby pits together teams with opposite intentions as CSKA Moscow (20-7) seek to rise to the top of the standings while Unics Kazan (7-20) hopes to avoid dropping to bottom place. It is a meeting between the league’s most prolific offense and the third-worst, with CSKA averaging 87.6 points per game while Unics has mustered just 76.6. But the home team, looking for its first win in more than two months, does have a slight edge in rebounding, averaging 33.4 boards per game against CSKA’s 32.9.
Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (13-14) knows it can’t afford any more slip-ups as it hosts crosstown rivals Galatasaray Odeabank (10-17). With four wins in its last six games, eliminated Galatasaray is certainly finishing its season with a flourish, and Darussafaka urgently needs to find that kind of form to have any chance of joining the post-season action. But it has won three consecutive home games, mainly thanks to excellent defense which has allowed an average of just 64.3 points over the course of those encounters. More of the same is required on Friday.
If Darussafaka loses, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (15-12) can take advantage by sealing a playoff spot with a victory at eliminated FC Barcelona Lassa (10-17). Points will be at a premium as the league’s two lowest scoring teams go head to head: Barcelona has averaged 71.6 points per game, and Zvezda 74.4. Expect Zvezda to force the game inside, as the Serbian team has converted the league’s lowest number of three-pointers (6.9 per game) with the worst conversion rate (33.9%), while Barcelona has made the fewest two-point strikes (16.8 per game).
And finally, first-placed Real Madrid (20-7) will attempt to hold onto that position as it travels to face a team which would like to take it off them, Olympiacos Piraeus (19-8). Having lost by 18 points in Madrid on the season’s opening day, the Greek team would love to win by more than that amount to claim head to head advantage. But with both teams already assured of home-court advantage in the play-offs, perhaps the greater goal is claiming superiority ahead of a potential Final Four meeting. And it will be a familiar story of Olympiacos’s top-ranked defense (73.1 points per game allowed) attempting to stop Madrid’s second-ranked offense (87 points per game scored).
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