With the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings starting to take shape, Round 6 will see the continent’s finest battling to improve their positions with a series of tantalising match-ups including the reigning champion facing an age-old challenger at home.
Thursday’s action tips off in Russia, where Unics Kazan (1-4) will look for its first home victory against visiting Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (2-3). Unics ranks third in offensive rebounding (13.8 per game), but will want to improve its offensive fluidity after averaging a league-low 14.8 assists so far. Zvezda has the second-best defense with just 72.2 points allowed per game, but is also the lowest in scoring, with an average of just 70.6 points.
Darussafaka Dogus (3-2) is another team in search of a first home win as it welcomes Brose Bamberg (2-3) to Istanbul. The hosts will want to turn around their league-worst rebounding numbers (27.4 per game) but maintain the defensive hustle that has them making the second-most steals, 8.6 per game. All five of visiting Brose Bamberg games so far have been settled by four points or less, thanks in part to the league’s third-best three-point shooting conversion rate (39.8%). But the German team is ranked dead last in offensive rebounds (7.4 per game).
In the Game of the Week, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (3-2) will attempt to use its status as the league’s best shot-blocking team (4.8 per game) to stem the flood of offense from visiting Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (2-3), which ranks fourth in scoring, averaging 86.6 points thanks to the league’s second-best true shooting conversion rate (53.3%). Panathinaikos will also seek to maintain the ball-handling efficiency that has it committing just 9.8 turnovers per game, the lowest rate in the league.
Two teams whose fortunes have been moving in different directions meet as EA7 Emporio Armani Milan (2-3) looks to end a run of three straight losses against visiting hosts Anadolu Efes Istanbul (2-3), which has won its last two. Despite its recent defeats, Milan has suffered no problems on offense, ranking second in scoring with an average of 90.6 points per game, while Efes has based its improvement on dominating the boards, ranking joint-second in total rebounds (38.8 per game) and first in offensive rebounds (15.8 per game).
Finally on Thursday, FC Barcelona Lassa (3-2) faces visiting Zalgiris Kaunas (1-4) and the coach who helped the hosts win their first EuroLeague title, Sarunas Jasikevicius. Barcelona is the second-lowest scoring team in the league with 72.6 points per game, with Zalgiris only slightly better at 75.2 on average. But Barcelona also has the top overall defense, allowing just 71 points on average, partly thanks to topping the league with a league-best 9.2 steals per game. Zalgiris, meanwhile, ranks joint-second in rebounds, with 38.8 per game, but has committed more turnovers than anyone else (15.8).
On Friday, Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul (0-5) will aim for its first victory of the season with a visit from OIympiacos Piraeus (3-2). Allowing a league-high 97 points per game, Galatasaray’s need for defensive improvement is paramount, and the Turkish team will also have to contend with a powerful Olympiacos team which leads the league in rebounds (39.8 per game) – a category in which the host ranks next-to-last (29.8).
A highlight of this round comes in Moscow, where the last two EuroLeague champions and the two top-rated teams so far this season, CSKA Moscow (5-0) and Real Madrid (4-1), resume their 53-year-old rivalry. Real Madrid boasts the highest team performance index rating with an average of 104.6 per game, closely followed by unbeaten champion CSKA at 103 per game. CSKA is also the league’s leading scorer, averaging 92.4 points, and has dished more assists than any other team (21.4). Madrid is the league’s most accurate two-point shooting team, converting 58.4%, and ranks second in defensive rebounding (27).
And finally, a repeat of last season’s semi-final sees Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (3-2) welcome Fenerbahce Istanbul (4-1). Turnovers could prove crucial, with Baskonia ranked second-worst in that category after conceding an average of 15, while Fenerbahce are second-best with 11.4 per game. And there’s a similar disparity in free-throw effectiveness: the visitor ranks second after converting 83.7% of its tries, and Baskonia are next-to-last after connecting on just 68.6% of foul shots.