Two of the best and most consistent forwards in recent years, Nikola Kalinic of Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Ioannis Papapetrou of Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, are set to square off once again on Thursday in the Serbian capital. These two team captains have more than 200 appearances each in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, and both have started this season carrying a heavy load. No player spent more time on the court in the first seven rounds this season than Kalinic, with 223 minutes played, while Papapetrou ranks eighth in that department, too.

Papapetrou enters Round 8 ranked 13th in scoring with 14.0 points per game. He has double-digit PIRs in five of seven games this season and has knocked down at least 1 three-point shot in the last six games. Papapetrou boasts better shooting percentages than Kalinic, including 58.1% for two-pointers and 88.2% from the free throw line. Kalinic enjoys the edge in rebounding (4.4 rpg.) and assists (2.7 apg.) while contributing far more with 1.1 steals for Zvezda’s defense.

At their current pace, both are on track for one of their best EuroLeague seasons since Papapetrou debuted back in the 2013-14 and Kalinic did so a year later.

One of the best defenders in all of EuroLeague since making his debut in 2014, Kalinic averaged double digits in scoring (10.4 ppg.) for the first time last season when he played for Valencia Basket. Over the course of his career, he has done a bit of everything to help his teams win, just like Papapetrou, who is in his fourth campaign with Panathinaikos. Since averaging 9.0 in his first season with the club, Papapetrou’s scoring average improved each season, to 10.9 points in the 2019-20 and 12.1 points per game last season.

Papapetrou’s offensive contributions were more limited, however, during his first five seasons, with Olympiacos Piraeus, than Kalinic’s have been throughout his career. Which leads to Kalinic’s career PIR (8.6), scoring (8.0 ppg.), and two-point shooting rate (54.4%) being just a bit higher. Papapetrou, by contrast, has a slight upper hand in rebounding (3.3 rpg) and three-point accuracy (35.1%). Kalinic, meanwhile, has assisted (1.9 apg.) his teammates significantly more than Papapetrou.

Over the course of their careers, the two players have faced each other seven times since their first meeting in the 2016-17 season, when Papapetrou was with Olympiacos and Kalinic with Fenerbahce.

They met three times that season, including in the 2017 Championship Game, when Papapetrou went scoreless while Kalinic delivered one of the best all-round performances of his career, with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, to help Fenerbahce lift the EuroLeague crown.

They have met four times since then, at least once in each of the last three seasons. In all seven games against each other, they scored almost identical numbers of points, with other numbers matching what they have done throughout their respective careers. Papapetrou was better in three-point shooting and rebounding, while Kalinic scored with better percentages close to the basket and contributed more assists and steals.

Out of those seven games, six were regular-season fixtures where both players took three victories with their respective teams, plus that one championship game in which Kalinic dominated.

This will be the first time Kalinic and Papapetrou clash as true leaders of their respective teams. With both Zvezda and Panathinaikos needing a win on Thursday, it should be a fun matchup to watch.

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