Euroleague Top 16 – Round 4 Preview

Euroleague Preview & Tips

With only one undefeated team – Fenerbahce Istanbul in Group E – it is safe to say this is arguably the most balanced Top 16 ever. Round 4 brings rematches of legendary Euroleague games, high-pressure showdowns and the Spanish Clasico in the Game of the Week. Four games are scheduled on Thursday, followed by four more on Friday. Get ready for a great week of Euroleague action!

In the earliest game of this round, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (2-1) hosts Panathinaikos Athens (1-2) on Thursday in the third meeting this season between them. Lokomotiv downed the Greens twice in regular season action. Malcolm Delaney leads the Top 16 in performance index rating (27 per game) and scoring (22.7 ppg.). Panathinaikos is last-but-one in Top 16 scoring (68.7 ppg.) and is last in three-point shooting (27.1%), but did better (70.5 ppg., 31.8% 3FG) in its two games against Lokomotiv in the regular season.

Also on Thursday, Cedevita Zagreb (1-2) takes on Anadolu Efes Istanbul (2-1) in the Croatian capital. These teams exchanged road wins with the same exact score, 75-81, in the regular season. Efes ranks first this season in assists (21) and three-point shooting percentage (43.7%), as well as second in defensive rebounds (26.2) and scoring (85.3) this season. Cedevita has improved its three-point shooting percentage in the Top 16 to 37.7% from 33% in the regular season. That better balances the offense, with center Miro Bilan (13.9 ppg., 10th overall) as its main pillar.

In an all-Turkish showdown, Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (0-3) hosts Fenerbahce Istanbul (3-0) on Friday. Four Darussafaka players – Semih Erden, Emir Preldzic, Serhat Cetin and Oguz Savas – were with Fenerbahce last season. Fenerbahce leads the Top 16 in rebounds (37.7), fouls drawn (23) and blocks (5.67), which speaks wonders about its intensity and hustle. Darussafaka is last in scoring (68.3) and assists (13.7) but has plenty of room for improvement against an opponent that they know better than most.

Also on Friday, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (1-2) welcomes Unicaja Malaga (2-1) to the Serbian capital. Unicaja is the best defensive team in the Top 16, allowing 65.7 points per game. Crvena Zvezda comes off a road win against Panathinaikos in which it gave up just 63 points in Athens. Vladimir Stimac and Tarence Kinsey of Zvezda played for Unicaja in the past. At the same time, DeMarcus Nelson and, if available, Nemanja Nedovic will go against their former team on its home floor.

Two classic teams meet again when Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz (1-2) welcomes CSKA Moscow (2-1) on Thursday for the 25th time since the Euroleague started in 2000. Their past showdowns included Euroleague semifinals in 2005 and 2008, as well as playoffs matchups in 2010 and 2013. CSKA leads the Top 16 in performance index rating (108 per game) and scoring (92.3 ppg.). Laboral ranks third in rebounds in this phase (36 rpg.) and features the best rebounder in the competition, Ioannis Bourousis (8.8 rpg.), who is second in index rating average (20.9 PIR), only trailing CSKA’s Nando De Colo (22.7 PIR).

In an Euroleague edition of El Clasico, Real Madrid (2-1) takes on archrivals FC Barcelona Lassa (1-2) in the Game of the Week on Thursday. Both teams have faced each other literally hundreds of the team, but this is their 23rd showdown in European club competitions, including Euroleague semifinals in 1996, 2013 and 2014. Barcelona is taking great care of the ball so far, leading the Top 16 in fewest turnovers (9.67 per game compared to Madrid’s 13.3) and assists (21) but ranks next-to-last in rebounds (30 rpg.). Madrid is first in free throw shooting (83.9% compared to Barcelona’s 65.9%), second in scoring (85) and third in two-point shooting percentage (55.7%) in the Top 16.

Khimki Moscow Region (2-1) hosts Brose Baskets Bamberg (2-1) on Friday. Bamberg leads the Top 16 in three-point shooting (47.3%) and is fifth in two-point range (54.9%) and assists (19.3). Bambert will not have it easy against Khimki, which leads the Top 16 in steals (10.3 spg.) and ties for fourth place in blocks (3 bpg.). Khimki must improve its free throw shooting, as it trails every Top 16 team at 64.4%.

Also on Friday, Olympiacos Piraeus (2-1) visits Zalgiris Kaunas (0-3). Olympiacos is the second-best defense in the Top 16 (71.7 ppg. allowed) and Zalgiris trails everyone (92.3) in that category. Zalgiris is allowing 38 rebounds per game since the start of the Top 16 and Olympiacos is first in fouls committed (24.7 per game). Zalgiris center Ian Vougioukas played for Olympiacos in the past.