After last week’s spectacular start to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season, the action continues with most of the opening round’s travelling teams heading back home to play in front of their fans for the first time in the new era of European basketball. The showdowns are highlighted by meetings between four teams with 27 continental titles among them as Real Madrid visits Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and CSKA Moscow hosts Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens, plus the last game Friday night between two more superpowers, FC Barcelona Lassa and Fenerbahce Istanbul!
On Thursday, two teams will be gunning for their first wins as Olympiacos Piraeus hosts Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Both lost on the road last week, and Olympiacos will be looking to significantly improve its shooting accuracy after converting a league low 39.8% of attempts in its loss at Real Madrid. Efes had the opening week’s second-lowest number of rebounds (27) in defeat at Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, but showed good defensive hustle to claim the second-highest number of steals (9).
Two more teams aiming to break into the win column meet in Germany, where Brose Bamberg and Unics Kazan are desperate to bounce back from close losses in Round 1. Unics was one of last week’s top rebounding teams thanks to Latavious Williams grabbing 15, but the visitors will look to lose the unwanted status of the league’s lowest scorers. Similarly, Bamberg registered last week’s second-worst true shooting conversion rate (two-point, three-point and free throw percentage) and both these teams need to find an offensive spark.
In one of the oldest rivalries in international basketball and a rematch of the 2014 championship game, Maccabi FOX welcomes Real Madrid for its home opener in Tel Aviv. Madrid has the most EuroLeague crowns, nine, while Maccabi is fourth with five. That Maccabi’s 97 points in Milan last week were not enough for victory and its 3 steals were tied for the lowest in the league tells you that the Israeli giants will be looking for defensive improvement. Strong rebounding was the key to Madrid’s opening week victory as the Spanish team hauled in 29 defensive boards against Olympiacos and let up the second-fewest points, 65, of opening week.
Thursday’s final game sees Round 1 winners Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul and visiting EA7 Emporio Armani Milan go head to head in the Game of the Week to see which retains a share of first place in the standings. The visitor will hope to maintain offensive fluidity after setting a club record with 29 assists against Maccabi and committing just 9 turnovers, tied for best in the league last week. Darussafaka needs to work on exactly that aspect after producing just 12 assists last week, as the hosts will also look to improve on a meagre tally of just 6 offensive rebounds.
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Friday tips off with a clash of superpowers who share 13 continental crowns as CSKA Moscow hosts Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens. CSKA set its EuroLeague club record this century with 109 points in last week’s victory at Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul, converting an extremely impressive 65% in true shooting, based on its total points attempted. The reigning champion is also the early league leader in defensive rebounds. Panathinaikos needed a league-high 26 fouls drawn to sneak past Zalgiris Kaunas in Round 1 but will surely have to lean on other aspects of its game to test CSKA.
After being defeated by CSKA in Istanbul last week, Galatasaray gets another chance to please its home fans in Round 2 with the visit of Crvena Zvezda Belgrade. The host will need to improve its rebounding after only claiming 25 boards on opening night, the lowest of all teams, while Zvezda won’t want to repeat the 46% free throw conversion rate which contributed to last week’s home loss to Darussafaka. The Serbian team will also aim to look after the ball more carefully after committing 16 turnovers.
The loyal fans of Zalgiris Kaunas will welcome their heroes for a home opener against Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz, which won last week despite giving away more turnovers, 20, than anyone else. Baskonia’s victory over Efes was built on 40 rebounds, and the only team to better that tally in Round 1 was Zalgiris, which claimed 44 in defeat at Panathinaikos. To enjoy success this time around, the Lithuanian team will look for more offensive creation after posting just 9 assists in Athens, the lowest in the league.
And finally on Friday night, another battle of giants closes out Round 2 as FC Barcelona Lassa hosts Fenerbahce Istanbul. Both teams had to hold their nerve to secure narrow victories to kick-start their campaigns, with Barcelona helped along by 10 steals – the most by any team last week. And although Fenerbahce will look to improve many aspects of its game after the nervy home win over Bamberg, no other team could better last season’s runners-up total of just 9 turnovers in Round 1.