Regular Season, Round 7: Lots of opportunity!
Round 7 of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season promises a lot of excitement this week. One team, CSKA Moscow, has already qualified to the Top 16 and several others can follow this week. Some Euroleague powerhouses - not to mention the reigning champion - face critical games in this round. Points differential will be an extra factor in some games, too. Expect nothing but high intensity and a lot of drama all across the continent.
Khimki Moscow Region (4-2) takes on FC Bayern Munich (2-4) in the earliest game in this round on Thursday. Khimki is undefeated at home and Bayern is looking for its first road win. Bayern swingman K.C. Rivers plays against his former team. Khimki has the third-best defense in the competition (70.7 ppg.) but allows as many as 38.7 rebounds per game, partly because its opponents hit just 44.5% of their two-point attempts and a league-low 25.2% of their shots from downtown. Bayern ranks last in fouls drawn (17.8 per game) and needs be more aggressive to have better chances to win. Also on Thursday, Fenerbahce Istanbul (5-1) will look to avenge its only loss against visiting Strasbourg (3-3). What's more, Fenerbahce will qualify to the Top 16 with a victory, while Strasbourg seeks its first road triumph against a team that it beat by 21 points at home. Fenerbahce has good defensive numbers, allowing just a 27.1% three-point shooting percentage and forcing opponents to make 22.3 fouls per game. Strasbourg barely goes to the foul line (11.8 free throws attempted per game) but ranks third in two-pointers made (22.2). In a high-voltage showdown on Friday, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (2-4) welcomes Real Madrid (2-4). The reigning champs allow opponents the most points (84.8) and two-point shots made (23.2) per game, as well as the second-best three-point shooting percentage (40.7%) in the competition. Madrid, however, leads the Euroleague in free throws made (19.5) and offensive rebounds (14.5 orpg.) and is second in total boards (39.5 rpg.) and blocks (4.17 bpg.). Zvezda is near the bottom in defensive rebounds (21.8) and third in fouls committed (22.8), with low shooting percentages in general (47.4% 2FG, 32.3% 3FG).
Among three Thursday games in this group, Limoges CSP (2-4) takes on Cedevita Zagreb (3-3) in a critical game for both. Limoges leads the Euroleague in turnovers, 19.3 per game, and ranks low in average rebounds (30.8) while also hitting fewer free throws (8.7) than any other team. Limoges, however, is fourth in three-point shooting percentage (41.2%) and beat Cedevita in Zagreb, 80-84. Cedevita ranks fifth in rebounds (36.8) and fourth in two-pointers made (21.8) but lacks three-point shooting accuracy (28.4%). In perhaps a last opportunity for the hosts to revive their Top 16 hopes, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (1-5) hosts Anadolu Efes Istanbul (3-3) in what has been a historically good place to play for the visitors. Not only does Efes have a 5-5 record at Mediolanum Forum, but there it lifted the Korac Cup trophy in 1996. Efes ranks third in scoring (87), is first in assists (20.8) and three-point shots made (11.7) with a league-best 47.6% from the arc. Efes, however, ranks last in free throw shooting percentage (63.1%). Milan is last in two-point shooting percentage (44.2%) and 22nd in three-point accuracy (31.6%), so better shot selection will be needed to turn its critical situation around. Olympiacos Piraeus (5-1) will qualify to the Top 16 if it beats Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz (4-2). Laboral center Ioannis Bourousis, who leads the league in index rating (25 per game), played for Olympiacos for five seasons and beat the Reds in the Euroleague final with Real Madrid last season. Olympiacos allows fewer two-point shots (16.5) than anyone and leads the Euroleague in rebounds (40.3 rpg.). Laboral is second in scoring (88.7), fouls drawn (23.8) and free throw percentage (81.2%), picking up just 11.8 turnover per night.
FC Barcelona Lassa (5-1) faces its first chance to qualify to the Top 16 in its visit to Stelmet Zielona Gora (1-5) on Thursday. Barcelona, which will qualify with a victory, commits both the fewest fouls (17) and turnovers (10.8) per game in the Euroleague and ranks fourth in performance index rating (98 per game). Overall, Barcelona is the second-best defensive team in the competition, allowing just 70 points per game. Zielona Gora is the lowest-scoring Euroleague team (67) so far and first in fouls committed (24.7 per game). On Friday, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (5-1) hosts Zalgiris Kaunas (3-3) knowing that a victory will send it to the Top 16, too. Lokomotiv owns the competition's best defense, which allows just 69.2 points and 26.5 rebounds per game. Lokomotiv is first in steals (9.2 spg.) and fourth in two-point shooting percentage (54.7%), too. Zalgiris is also solid on defense (72.7 points allowed) and ranks fifth in free throw percentage (78.8%). In a pivotal game in this group, Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (2-4) faces Panathinaikos Athens (2-4) on Friday. Karsiyaka ranks last in three-point shooting percentage (26.7%) and 21st in scoring (69.8). It has good defense against three-point shooters (30.6%) but not inside the arc (58.4%). Panathinaikos is second in steals (8.8) and assists (20.5), but also last in rebounds (30.8) and turnovers (16.3).
Unicaja Malaga (5-1) welcomes Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1-5) in an extremely important game for both teams on Thursday. Unicaja will qualify to the Top 16 for the 11th consecutive season with a win, while Maccabi would be facing its toughest situation this century should it lose. Unicaja ranks second in assists (20.5) and third in offensive boards (12.8) but is last in defensive rebounds (19.7) and 23rd in fouls committed (18 per game). It has the league's best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.892-to-1). Maccabi ranks low in two-point shooting percentage (48.6%) and allows 84.2 points per game. Its new head coach, Zan Tabak, played for Unicaja in the past. In the first of two Friday games, already-qualified CSKA Moscow (5-1) hosts Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari (0-6), which will be eliminated with a loss or if Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (3-3) wins later Friday. CSKA leads the Euroleague in average index rating (108.5), scoring (89.3) and two-point shots made (22.8 per game), with excellent percentages (58.6% 2FG, 41.6% 3FG). Sassari is 22nd in scoring (68.3), last in rebounds (27.5) but first in free throw accuracy (84.4%). Sassari allows 84.5 points per game and higher index ratings (105 allowed per game) than any other team. Darussafaka hosts Brose Baskets Bamberg (4-2) in a game that could put the visitors in the Top 16 if they win and if Maccabi loses on Thursday. Darussafaka has been stronger on the boards, averaging 37.6 rebounds to Bamberg's 32.7. Bamberg leads the Euroleague in two-point shooting percentage (59%) and is second in three-point accuracy (42%). Darussafaka ranks high in fouls drawn (21.8) but low in free throw percentage (68.1%). It is also third in turnovers at 15.7 per game.
Be sure to follow all the fun this week on Euroleague.TV and Euroleague.net!