Two teams on opposite sides of the spectrum will face off in Round 8 in Turkey when Anadolu Efes Istanbul (5-2) welcomes EuroLeague debutante Zenit St Petersburg (2-5) on Thursday. Efes was back on the winning track in its last game at Olympiacos Piraeus and will look to turn that win into a streak this week. Zenit has lost its last two games, including the last one at home against Khimki Moscow Region. The newcomers will need to start winning as soon as possible to stay in a good place for the playoffs race.
This will be the first time that these two teams meet in the EuroLeague.
Bryant Dunston and Gustavo Ayon are veteran big men who will face each other again when these two teams meet. Dunston has averaged 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game this season. Ayon leads Zenit with 11.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals, having started in three of his seven appearances. Both are seasoned players who have faced each other many times and will now be the protagonists of one of the finest duels that can be seen in the EuroLeague paint.
Keys to victory: Efes
The hosts are facing one of the weakest offenses in the league and that can be the main stepping stone for Efes, as they also show better numbers on defense than Zenit. If Efes manages to keep its defense tight and forces those long-range shots, it can win this game. Shane Larkin has averaged 26 points in his last two games and he seems to be picking up steam just like he did last season, so Efes's offensive options will have to go through his hands and those of Vasilije Micic, who also had a great game in his last appearance. The support of the Istanbul fans can be the last factor to add to the mix for Efes.
Keys to victory: Zenit
Zenit has won just two games so far, but both wins arrived far from St Petersburg, so the visitors will try to make that a tradition in order to get a third win. Efes scores more points and allows fewer points than Zenit, so the Russian team will have to work hard on both sides of the court if it wants this win. However, the trio of Ayon, Mateusz Ponitka and Will Thomas might not be enough and the team will need other names like Andrew Albicy, Alex Renfroe and Austin Hollins to step up and take their team to a position where they can score an upset in Istanbul.
Adrien Moerman and Kurnoslav Simon will not be available against Zenit, while Bryant Dunston will be a game-time decision.