Round 12 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season is highlighted by a big local derby, while several teams on the fringes of the playoffs positions will look to climb into the all-important top eight.
Red-hot Enoch ready for Real
His team has not been winning many games, but the most in-form player in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague right now is Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz center Steven Enoch, who has enjoyed a magnificent trio of games. The EuroLeague rookie started by pairing 22 points with 8 rebounds in defeat at FC Barcelona, before powering a home win over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and then registering another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in a home loss to CSKA Moscow.
Enoch's average PIR of 28.7 over those last three games is comfortably the best in the league, and this week he will attempt to help improve Baskonia's 4-7 record with a visit from co-leaders Real Madrid (9-2). Pablo Laso's team, which is on a four-game winning run, possesses arguably the best set of big men in the competition, with Walter Tavares, Guerschon Yabusele and Vincent Poirier all enjoying strong seasons. The way Enoch is playing, it might take all three of them to stop him.
Beaubois sets sights on local rival
Another player enjoying an excellent run of form is Anadolu Efes Istanbul sharpshooter Rodrigue Beaubois, who will attempt to prolong his scoring streak in the high stakes of the city derby against Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. In last week's double set of games, Beaubois scored a career-high 29 points to down Olympiacos Piraeus before then adding 17 points and 7 assists in victory against AS Monaco, sending a reminder that he completes a fearsome foursome in the backcourt alongside Vasilije Micic, Shane Larkin and Kruno Simon.
Efes (5-6) has very much recovered from a disastrous start to the season to climb up the standings with a run of three straight wins, and on Thursday the reigning champion will look to inflict more pain upon a struggling Fenerbahce (3-8), which has lost three in a row and six of the last seven. The big problem for Sasha Djordjevic's men has been a lack of offensive fluidity, with Fenerbahce only scoring more than 80 points on two occasions so far this season. That will need to improve against Beaubois and co this week.
Bayern aims for another win in Moscow
Efes is one of three teams currently sitting one win short of the top eight playoffs places as the middle part of the standings is very congested with six teams separated by just one victory. Two of those will go head to head in this round's opening tipoff on Thursday evening, with CSKA Moscow (6-5) welcoming FC Bayern Munich (5-6) for what is likely to be a real physical battle.
Bayern enjoyed a profitable double-round week by overcoming both Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in Munich, and will look to use that confidence to win at CSKA for the second successive season. The key to last January's 66-69 triumph for Bayern was dogged defense, with the Russian team restricted to just 38.1% two-point shooting. But CSKA's top scorer on that occasion was Nikola Milutinov (16 points), and the Serbian big man is recovering his full fitness after returning from injury with brief outings in last week's road games. Milutinov can certainly be a valuable weapon for CSKA when he finds top form, but Bayern will hope that doesn't happen this week.
Bounce back for Milan or road win for Olympiacos?
AX Armani Exchange Milan (8-3) headed into last week's double set of games in first place but ended it in third after two defeats in a row at the hands of UNICS Kazan and Zenit St Petersburg. This Friday, Ettore Messina's men now return to the comfort of Mediolanum Forum – where they have won all six games so far – looking to put that bad week behind them against an Olympiacos Piraeus (7-4) team that has been red-hot at home (7-0) but ice-cold on its travels (0-4).
The Greek team's best chance of winning this game will probably come close to the basket: Olympiacos averages 35.3 rebounds per game compared to Milan's 32.6, and the visitors are also much more effective shooting from close range, with 56.0% of two-pointers converted (second-best in the league) against Milan's 52.4%. Conversely, no team in the competition has made more than Milan's average of 9.5 three-pointers per game, so we should expect a real clash of styles in the Italian fashion capital.
Revived Zalgiris seeking first road win
After suffering defeat in its first nine games of the season, Zalgiris Kaunas saw its season explode into life by winning both of last week's games, overcoming Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce at home. The vast improvement enjoyed by Jure Zdovc's team is illustrated by the fact that Zalgiris's three highest-scoring games of the season were the last three, and though starting to think about a playoffs position remains far off, at least there can be confidence that Zalgiris will now continue to pick up regular wins.
The Lithuanian team could not have a tougher task as it searches for a first road win this Friday in a trip to league-leading FC Barcelona (9-2), which boasts a perfect 5-0 record at home. It will be a special occasion for Barca point guard Rokas Jokabaitis as he goes up against his former club for the first time, and the 21-year-old could well have a big role to play with Nick Calathes an injury doubt for the game at Palau Blaugrana.
What’s more, the two head coaches in this game, Jasikevicius and Zalgiris's Jure Zdovc, once were teammates at Olimpija Ljubljana in the 1999-2000 season. They helped the team reach EuroLeague quarterfinals that season, where Olimpija was ousted 2-1 in the best-of-three series by Barcelona, where Jasikevicius would arrive soon to win his first EuroLeague title of four.