Crvena Zvezda returns home after a bittersweet two-round week in which it registered a 79-87 win in Milan and a 76-65 loss in Barcelona. Jordan Loyd (19.2 ppg.) has been Zvezda's top scorer until now, followed by Corey Walden (12.2 ppg.) and Johnny O'Bryant (10.8 ppg.). Efes comes off a convincing 77-105 road victory against Khimki Moscow Region. Shane Larkin (16.0 ppg.), Krunoslav Simon (14.6 ppg.) and Vasilije Micic (13.7 ppg.) are the team's main pillars. Expect an exciting game at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall.
Loyd is seeing a lot of playing time at the small forward position as Coach Sasa Obradovic likes to play with two point guards most of the time. Loyd must use his unlimited shooting range and athleticism against Simon, who has arguably having a career-best season at age 35. Simon is a great one-on-one scorer, effective in low post situations, and shooting the ball extremely well this season (71.4% 2FG, 46.2% 3FG) and helping his team in many ways (3.4 rpg., 3.6 apg.).
Efes has an 8-4 record against Zvezda since the teams' first showdowns in the 1981-82 Korac Cup. Last season, Efes beat Zvezda twice. It registered an 85-70 home victory behind 26 points from Micic. Efes went on to down Zvezda 78-85 in the Serbian capital with 24 points from Larkin. It was Efes's first trip to Belgrade since reaching the 2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game, its best result ever in the competition.
Keys to victory: Zvezda
Zvezda needs to improve its two-point shooting percentage as it currently ranks last overall at 48.3%. Dejan Davidovac, Ognjen Kuzmic and Emanuel Terry, however, are shooting over 60% inside the arc, so getting them involved on offense would generate more space for Loyd and Walden to play one-on-one. Zvezda is averaging 6.6 steals and 10.4 offensive rebounds and that aggressiveness at both ends is required when you play a deep, talented team like Efes.
Keys to victory: Efes
Larkin comes off his best game of the season, which is great news for Efes and bad for everyone else. Larkin was a dominant force in the EuroLeague last season and he makes everyone around him better. If Bryant Dunston remains sidelined, Tibor Pleiss and Sertac Sanli are set to share the center duties. Getting Micic and Simon involved is important, too, as is spreading the floor with either Chris Singleton and Adrien Moerman at power forward. If Efes can rebound and run, it is a very hard team to stop.