Zenit (12-6) is on a three-game home winning streak, in which it has consolidated some of the many road victories it earned earlier this season. Kevin Pangos (11.6 ppg., 6.4 apg.), Arturas Gudaitis (10.6 ppg.) and Will Thomas (8.1 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) have been leading the team. Efes (11-9) is on a three-game winning streak. Vasilije Micic (14.6 ppg., 5.2 apg.), Shane Larkin (13.5 ppg., 4.6 apg.) and Bryant Dunston (10.3 ppg., 4.2 rpg.) are its main pillars.
Gudaitis has been in outstanding shape this month, proving that his injuries belong to the past. He has averaged 20.6 points and a PIR of 26.7 in the last three games in which he's made 20-of-26 two-point shots (76.9%). Gudaitis must use his power and aggressiveness against Dunston, a two-time EuroLeague Best Defender and the competition's all-time leader in blocks. Dunston has stepped up on offense in Tibor Pleiss's absence, averaging 11.7 points and a PIR of 15.3 in his team's current streak.
Earlier this season
In the teams' opening game of the season, Zenit routed Efes 69-73 at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall. Pangos scored a career-high 23 points – including 4 free throws in the final 23 seconds to seal the win – and dished 7 assists in his Zenit debut to lead the winners. K.C. Rivers added 14 points for Zenit. Micic led Efes with 17 points and 9 assists, Simon netted 14 points for the home team, which was without Larkin.
Keys to victory: Zenit
Zenit has the best defensive numbers in the competition, allowing just 72.9 points per night without forcing a lot of turnovers (11.9 per game). That means there are a lot of contested shots, which is important against a team with great shooters like Micic, Simon, Larkin and Rodrigue Beaubois. On offense, Pangos and Mauteusz Ponitka should find a balance to get sharpshooters Billy Baron and Austin Hollins involved without forgetting that Gudaitis and Thomas are in great shape and ready to contribute in the low post.
Keys to victory: Efes
Efes has averaged 95.0 in its current streak, so speeding the game tempo against a team that feels more comfortable in half-court situations is almost mandatory for the Turkish powerhouse. Efes has outrebounded its opponents in all of its last three wins and that is where it is all starts in Coach Ergin Ataman's philosophy - locking down the defensive boards to quickly find Micic or Larkin and play in transition. If Dunston stops Gudaitis down low, Efes should have a better chance of winning at Sibur Arena.