Round 5 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season contains some high-powered matchups including repeats of two recent championship games. Here’s your guide to the best of the action.
Fener’s tough run begins
After coming through the first four games of the season with a 2-2 record, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul is now heading into an exceptionally tough run of games with its next five opponents Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Olympiacos Piraeus, CSKA Moscow and AX Armani Exchange Milan. Coach Sasa Djordjevic’s men are heading into that daunting run of games with confidence sky-high following last week’s 80-41 pummelling of UNICS Kazan and that will be very much needed on Thursday against a Real (3-1) team that has been perfect at home so far this season, overcoming Anadolu Efes Istanbul, AS Monaco and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens with commanding performances.
A particular challenge for Fenerbahce in this repeat of the 2018 title decider will be competing inside against Real’s powerful trio of big men who create a dominant rebounding force. Walter Tavares (8.3 rebounds per game), Guerschon Yabusele (5.3 rpg) and Vincent Poirier (5.0 rpg) look like they will take some stopping as a collective unit, so Fener will need big performances from Jan Vesely, Devin Booker and Ahmet Duverioglu to control the hosts inside the paint.
Classic battle between in-form Reds
A famous rivalry will resume in Friday’s early tip-off between a pair of 3-1 teams currently tied for third place as CSKA Moscow welcomes Olympiacos Piraeus in a rematch of the 2012 championship game – plus 2013, 2015 and 2017 semifinals – all won by the Reds. Although the season has a long way to run, Olympiacos is so far looking capable of returning towards the heights of that glorious era, making a strong start to the season with its only defeat coming in overtime at Barcelona.
CSKA has also put together a good start to the season, winning three consecutive games despite seeing Nikola Milutinov, Toko Shengelia and Marius Grigonis all sidelined by injury. Friday’s game will see a good battle between two of the league’s best forwards in the opening weeks of the season: Will Clyburn has averaged 16.0 points and 5.3 rebounds for CSKA while Sasha Vezenkov is stepping up to become a key player for Olympiacos, putting together career-best numbers of 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds so far.
Pascual heading to Palau Blaugrana… again
Zenit St Petersburg Coach Xavi Pascual makes his latest return to his former home venue on Friday with a trip to face so-far perfect FC Barcelona, just over five months since the two teams met in a hard-fought playoffs series which went to a maximum five games before Barca eventually prevailed.
It has been another strong start to the season for Zenit, winning three of its four games including road wins at Zalgiris Kaunas and UNICS Kazan. Unsurprisingly, that success has been built on a strong defense that has never allowed more than 77 points per game and an average of just 70.3. Pascual will make sure his team is well prepared to slow down the likes of Nick Calathes and Nikola Mirotic.
Barca has already demonstrated the ability to find a way to win even the closest of games, advancing to 4-0 with consecutive overtime victories over Olympiacos and Monaco in the double-round week. And with Brandon Davies winning MVP of the Round honors for his performance in Monaco to underline how varied Barca’s threat is, Friday’s game will present a major test for Pascual and his players.
Hall and Jones set for shootout in Milan
The competition’s other undefeated team, AX Armani Exchange Milan, is also at home this week with the visit of another strong starter, LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne (3-1) on Thursday. Milan’s long list of veteran EuroLeague talent is clearly important to the Italian team’s challenge, but the top scorer so far this season is a rookie in the competition: Devon Hall. The 26-year-old American shooting guard has been very consistent, scoring in double figures in every game and averaging 13.3 points. He has been particularly effective from long range, knocking down 11 three-pointers – joint fourth-best in the competition – with a conversion rate of 50%, and making at least 3 triples in the last three games.
A key to this week’s game will be Hall’s shooting duel with another summer signing, ASVEL’s Chris Jones. The former Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv man has scored at least 14 points in every game for an average of 17.0, with excellent accuracy: Jones has made 63.3% of two-point attempts and 53.3% from beyond the arc. ASVEL will need similar figures from him if it wants to give Milan its first defeat of the season.
Baskonia looking to extend run, Monaco to end run
One team that greatly enjoyed the double-round week was Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, which gained back-to-back wins over Panathinaikos and ALBA Berlin for the Spanish team’s first triumphs of the season. Baskonia (2-2) will attempt to make it three in a row on Friday at home versus AS Monaco, which suffered contrasting fortunes with a pair of losses against Real Madrid and Barcelona last week. Despite those defeats, Monaco has already shown more than enough to prove it can be competitive with any opponent this season and Friday’s game will be a special one for scoring star Mike James as he returns to face the club where he first made his EuroLeague mark between 2014-16.
For the hosts, along with stopping James, a priority will be giving one of the competition’s hottest shooters the chance to continue his fine form: Simone Fontecchio has scored 16, 16 and 17 points in the last three games and his pairing with fellow forward Rokas Giedraitis is looking increasingly productive for Baskonia.
Seen at: Euroleague.net