This Week: Last two champions collide

Nov 23, 2020 by Euroleague.net Print
This Week: Last two champions collide

A showdown between the 2018 and 2019 champions highlights Round 11 in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, which also features a Monday meeting with ramifications for the playoffs positions. Check out the best of this week's action right here.

Baskonia and Zenit in early tip-off

Most teams will only be in action once this week, but there are a couple of games to play for two teams currently positioned just outside the playoffs places as TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (4-4) and Zenit St Petersburg (4-2) meet in Spain on Monday evening in a rearranged Round 3 meeting. It is the third home game in a row for Baskonia, which is coming off an excellent pair of wins over Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (by 21 points) and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (18 points) last week. Alec Peters was in particularly good form, averaging 22 points and 5.5 rebounds, while Pierria Henry orchestrated the offense with 22 assists in those two games. Finding the same kind of offensive fluidity will not be easy against a well-drilled Zenit side which boasts the second-best defense in the competition, allowing only 70.2 points per game. That figure is even better on the road, with Xavi Pascual's team conceding an average of just 62.7 points in its three away games to date, so Baskonia will need to be patient and execute particularly well in this week's opening tipoff.

Heavyweight showdown in Moscow

After that early start to this week's proceedings on Monday, Round 11 blasts off in spectacular style on Thursday evening with a heavyweight match-up between the last two champions, CSKA Moscow (7-3) and Real Madrid (6-4). Both teams made uncharacteristically slow starts to the season, but that is all in the past now as they head into this week's showdown on the back of strong winning runs. CSKA has dug deep to take five consecutive victories, showing its character by coming through a pair of tough road games last week at Zalgiris Kaunas and FC Bayern Munich, in part thanks to sharpshooter Mike James, who scored 27 and 25 points in those triumphs. Real, meanwhile, has also jumped into the playoffs places by winning five in a row. Strong defense has been the key, with Pablo Laso's men holding opponents to an average of 68 points in their last three games. The return to full fitness of Anthony Randolph has also been vital. After averaging 6.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in his first five games, Randolph has improved to 14 points and 5.7 boards in the last three, getting back to his best in time for a big battle in Moscow.

Milan and Maccabi aiming to surge up standings

A pair of perennial challengers go head to head on Thursday night as Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv (3-7) welcomes AX Armani Exchange Milan (4-3) with both teams aiming to make a move towards the top half of the standings. Milan has endured a disrupted start to the campaign due to a combination of injuries and the COVID-19 virus, and last Friday night's 98-92 victory over Zalgiris Kaunas gave a glimpse of the offensive fireworks we can expect to see from Ettore Messina's loaded roster once Milan can find some rhythm and continuity. Maccabi is continuing to struggle badly and the nature of last week's loss in Valencia – turning the ball over to concede the game-deciding basket with two seconds left on the clock – will have left a particularly bitter taste. There is still plenty of time for Ioannis Sfairopoulos's team to put things right, and history suggests that could start to happen this week: Maccabi has won nine games out of nine at home to Milan this century.

Fenerbahce aiming to avoid another Spanish loss

Two teams heading in different directions meet in Istanbul as struggling Fenerbahce Beko (4-6) hosts a Valencia Basket (6-3), which currently sits in fourth place.

Fenerbahce will be sick of the sight of Spanish opponents after losing by 42 points at Barcelona in Round 8, going down by 18 at Baskonia in Round 9 and then suffering a 20-point loss at Real Madrid last time out. After that trio of road trips, however, at least Igor Kokoskov's men can be happy to get back home as their Spanish quartet comes to a conclusion, and Fener will hope for an instant impact from newly signed guard Alex Perez. Valencia has happy memories of its last visit to Fenerbahce, taking home a dramatic 98-100 overtime victory last December on a night when star man Bojan Dubljevic produced the best performance of his career with 30 points and a PIR of 42. Two Valencia players will also be making their first return trip to Fenerbahce, with Derrick Williams and Nikola Kalinic aiming to inflict more misery with a Spanish flavor upon their former team.

Can Panathinaikos end losing run?

Friday night's action will feature Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (2-6) attempting to end a four-game losing sequence as it entertains high-flying FC Bayern Munich (7-3). This has been a tough few weeks for Panathinaikos, which suffered a few narrow losses before suffering a more worrying loss as it was comfortably brushed aside by Baskonia last time out. Friday's game marks the start of a sequence of four home games out of five, so coach Georgios Vovoras will be looking for this to become a turning-point victory. Bayern, meanwhile, saw its impressive winning run snapped in an intense battle with CSKA Moscow last week, and Andrea Trinchieri's men will be keen to prove that loss was just a short-term blip rather. Bayern has made more steals than any other team in the competition, averaging 7.9 per game, and will use that energy and hustle in an attempt to stop Panathinaikos from establishing tempo and rhythm, with the need to slow down playmaker and leading scorer Nemanja Nedovic (14.0 points per game) sure to be a particular priority for the German team.