Friday night’s action in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague featured a home victory for Zalgiris Kaunas, which defeated Maccabi FOX to improve to a 7-7 record. There was also a victory for reigning champ Real Madrid over a defiant FC Bayern Munich, which dropped to 7-7 with the home loss. Like Madrid, another road winner was AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, with the Italian team beating Panathinaikos OPAP Athens to end a five-game losing streak and improve to 7-7. Can you see where we’re going with this…?
And that’s not all. A day earlier, FC Barcelona Lassa did the same as Milan by winning on the road – in this case at KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz – to jump up to 7-7. All of which means that now, just one game short of the regular season’s midway point, there is a four-way tie for sixth place, with Zalgiris, Milan, Bayern and Barcelona all neck and neck, separated by only points difference.
This is what players and coaches mean when they tell you how competitive the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague is. Every week, everyone can beat everyone. Of course, some teams are stronger than others and win more games than most…but nothing is guaranteed or can be taken for granted, and many of the wins for the top teams or defeats for the bottom teams only come by the smallest of margins: current leaders Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, for example, has claimed 5 of the victories in its current 10-game winning streak by 4 points or fewer, while bottom placed Darussafaka Tefken Istanbul has lost three of its last five by only 1 or 2 points.
Clearly, it wouldn’t have taken many small details to turn out differently – a missed or made shot, a rebound, a foul – for those two Turkish teams to have experienced very different outcomes in the last few weeks. And that is why players, coaches and fans can head into every game and every season with a genuine reason to believe – or, for the traditional powerhouses, a genuine reason to be nervous. Because in this most competitive of competitions, everyone really can beat everyone. Just ask the four teams currently tied for sixth place with exactly the same number of wins and losses. So as we approach the mid-season mark, keep watching...because nobody knows what will happen next.