Despite being consistent at the beginning of the season, Semi Ojeleye has scored at least 16 points in his last four games. Source: Imago Images
Despite being consistent at the beginning of the season, Semi Ojeleye has scored at least 16 points in his last four games. Source: Imago Images

EuroLeague preview: what to expect and who to watch?

Basketball OlyBet 12.12.2023

The 14th round of the EuroLeague brings us nine thrilling matchups. To gain a better understanding of what to expect from these games and who to watch, sit back, relax, and delve into our preview of the round!

Crvena Zvezda Belgrade vs. ALBA Berlin (14 December, 20:00 EET)

The Serbian club’s season is marked by narrow losses: out of nine defeats, eight have come by six or fewer points. Their only defeat at home was against Milan, but when Maodo Lo scores 32 points, the stars were aligned against Zvezda anyway.

In the match against ALBA, Zvezda is definitely the favorite because the Belgrade team has won four out of six home games. Alongside Zvezda, ALBA is one of two clubs that haven’t won any away games: their record stands at seven losses out of seven away matches.

The Berlin team awaits the return of important players Louis Olinde, Matt Thomas, and Sterling Brown from the injury list. In their absence, Gabriele Procida and Johannes Thiemann have shone, especially Thiemann, who scored an impressive 31 points against Anadolu Efes Istanbul in the previous round.

Zvezda hasn’t had significant problems with scoring points in December either, as they have collected at least 81 points in each of their last three games. Against ALBA, even more points should come, given that an average of 86.6 points per game is scored against the German team, which ranks as the league’s third-worst statistic.

Zalgiris Kaunas vs. Partizan Belgrade (14 December, 20:00 EET)

Zalgiris secured an addition this Monday by signing a three-week contract with Austin Hollins, who is returning from a serious knee injury. The American player has previously played for EuroLeague teams like Zenit, Zvezda, and Maccabi Tel Aviv. However, considering the context, fans should not expect too much from Hollins, at least not at the moment.

Nevertheless, signing Hollins, who plays either as a shooting guard or a small forward, is positive news. Against Partizan, guard Lukas Lekavičius and forwards Brady Manek and Arnas Butkevičius are sidelined with injuries.

While Žalgiris has lost two consecutive games, Partizan has significantly improved their position in recent rounds, climbing to sixth place with seven wins and six losses. They have won three straight matches, but all of these victories were at home. The Serbian giant has only won once out of six away battles.

However, as mentioned, their form is on an upward trend. Center Bruno Caboclo has been an excellent addition, and the Brazilian might get significant minutes, especially since Frank Kaminsky missed the last week’s double-round games due to injury.

Even more critical than Caboclo’s performance is the return of Kevin Punter. Partizan’s leader suffered an injury at the end of October and returned to the court a month later. Last week the American scored 25 and 19 points, respectively, indicating that after a poor start to the season, he’s finally demonstrating the performances expected from him.

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul (14 December, 21:05 EET)

There isn’t a single club in the league whose injury list is as lengthy as Efes’s: sidelined due to injury are Derek Willis, Will Clyburn, Ante Žižić, Rodrigue Beaubois, Tibor Pleiss and Elijah Bryant. All except Pleiss are players who would typically play at least 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, Efes managed to go through the double-round week with two victories, and particularly commendable was Shane Larkin. For instance, against ALBA, the American scored 32 points and achieved an efficiency rating of 41. But he’s not the only one deserving praise: forward Mike Daum, who joined Efes from the Italian side Tortona, has averaged 11.7 points and 2.3 rebounds over three games. He has shot 83.3% from two-point range and 50% from beyond the arc.

In Belgrade, where Maccabi is currently hosting their home games, two of the weaker defensive teams in the league are facing each other. On one hand, it’s good news for Larkin, but Maccabi’s stars Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin also view this matchup positively. Especially Baldwin, who is one of the league’s better offensive players.

This season, rebounding has been a stumbling block for Efes as they rank among the worst in both defensive and offensive rebounds. Maccabi leads the EuroLeague with an average of 14 offensive rebounds per game.

It will be interesting to see what defensive pressure Efes can exert on Maccabi. Pressuring the ball handlers, particularly Brown and Baldwin, is crucial since the Israeli club averages 13.8 turnovers per game, which is the second-worst in the league.

Baskonia vs. Virtus Bologna (14 December, 21:30 EET)

After Duško Ivanović took over as head coach, Baskonia has won seven out of eight EuroLeague matches. The only loss came against Monaco, where Chima Moneke failed to box out Jaron Blossomgame and the American sealed the victory with a dunk from an offensive rebound.

Under the Montenegrin’s leadership, the sharpshooter Markus Howard has played very well. In the last four games, the American has averaged 21.8 points, trailing only behind Mike James (23.3) and Larkin (25) in that span. Howard’s shooting accuracy, especially from beyond the arc, deserves praise as he has made 46% of his three-point attempts.

While Virtus must find a plan to contain Howard, Baskonia also has plenty to ponder, as Tornike Shengelia has placed himself in the absolute elite of the league. The Georgian’s averages for Virtus are 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. However, in Tadas Sedekerskis, Baskonia possesses a very effective defensive weapon against him, at least in theory.

While Shengelia generally delivers in every game, the recent rise of guard Daniel Hackett in the last four rounds has been significant. The Italian’s stats of 11.5 points, 6.3 assists, and four rebounds are impressive, but Hackett is even more crucial in defense, where he ranks among the league’s top guards.

In fact, defense could be the biggest key to this game. Baskonia ranks tenth in three-point and 13th in two-point shooting accuracy in the EuroLeague and Virtus has a fair share of good defenders who could make life difficult for the Spanish club’s players.

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich (14 December, 21:45 EET)

The reigning champion Real added only one player in the summer, but considering that it’s the league’s best playmaker Facundo Campazzo, it’s no wonder the Spanish royal club is almost unstoppable: they’ve won 12 out of 13 games, with a perfect record of six wins in home games.

However, if anyone knows first-hand what could be the best keys to stopping Real, it’s Bayern. They are coached by former Real head coach Pablo Laso, whose assistant Chus Mateo currently directs the Madrid squad.i

Bayern is one of the league’s best rebounding teams. They allow 32.2 rebounds per game, which ranks them third in the league. They themselves grab 39.9 rebounds per game, which is by far the best. But against Real, Bayern’s strength in rebounding might not be as dominant as against other teams because the Madrid club is also quite good on the boards, especially defensively.

Real’s paint is guarded by the giant Walter Tavares so it wouldn’t be surprising if Bayern attempted more three-pointers against Real than usual. This could play into Real’s hands because Bayern, hitting only 32.5% of their threes, is one of the worst team in the league in this aspect.

This season, Bayern has also struggled with an overly individual offense. They average the league’s lowest 15.1 assists per game, and considering Real’s potentially exceptional defense, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bayern again becomes too individual in attacking Real’s defense. And this, too, would favor Real because Bayern lacks players who can dominate in one-on-one situations against the defender.

ASVEL Villeurbanne vs. Panathinaikos Athens (14 December, 22:00 EET)

ASVEL’s woes seem endless. There’s no major complaint about their roster, but just two wins and 11 losses cast a somber tone on their season. With the arrival of new head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco, ASVEL’s on-court performances have significantly improved, but they haven’t managed to turn the tide.

Panathinaikos is not having an easy time either. After rising to fourth place in the standings at one point, three consecutive losses have pushed them down to 11th position.

It’s worth noting that ASVEL hasn’t won any home games this season. Panathinaikos has struggled away from home, winning only one out of five games, against the second-to-last ALBA Berlin.

It’s clear that ASVEL’s weakest point is their defense: they’ve allowed an average of 89 points per game, which is the highest in the league. They also struggle in rebounding, conceding 35.6 rebounds per game, second only to Istanbul’s Fenerbahce (36.5).

Given ASVEL’s struggling offense and awful defense, it’s incredibly challenging to see how they could defeat Panathinaikos, as the Greek giant is one of the best defensive teams in the league. While not boasting an outstanding offense, Panathinaikos doesn’t need a top offense against ASVEL’s defense.

Fenerbahce Istanbul vs. Monaco (15 December, 19:45 EET)

There isn’t any other EuroLeague team that has such contrasting fortunes at home and away as Fenerbahce. The Istanbul club has won all five of their home games, including a victory over Real, but they have only defeated one opponent in eight away games.

However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it’s Monaco that breaks Fenerbahce’s streak of home victories. With four wins and three losses away from home, they are among the better-performing teams on the road in the league.

Fenerbahce’s biggest weakness lies in rebounding, as they have allowed opponents to grab 36.5 rebounds per game, which is the worst statistic in the EuroLeague. While Monaco isn’t exceptional in rebounding, they perform better than average in this aspect.

Mike James and Monaco’s other aggressive guards surely appreciate the fact that Fenerbahce doesn’t force many turnovers or make a lot of steals, indicating that the defense of the Turkish giant isn’t particularly aggressive.

But Fenerbahce might take pleasure in the fact that Monaco allows an average of 28.2 three-point attempts per game, with a 37.9% success rate. Head coach Dimitris Itoudis has plenty of sharpshooters at his disposal, capable of torching Monaco from long range.

Olympiacos Piraeus vs. Valencia (15 December, 21:15 EET)

Valencia was on a very good path, but when point guard Stefan Jovic got injured, the losses started coming. With the Serb’s return, they got back on the winning track, defeating both Zvezda and ASVEL last week. While the 33-year-old Jovic doesn’t boast incredible statistics, it’s evident that with him on the court, Valencia’s offense is much more team-oriented and fluid.

Olympiacos must focus heavily on containing Semi Ojeleye on offense. In the last four rounds, the American with NBA experience has averaged 16.3 points in a little over 23 minutes per game and has been very efficient, shooting 66.6% on twos and 42.8% on threes.

This match shouldn’t be expected to be a high-scoring affair, as while Olympiacos ranks eighth in advanced defensive metrics, Valencia ranks even higher, sitting at second place. This was evident in Round 13 against ASVEL, where they allowed only 55 points. Yes, ASVEL isn’t particularly strong, but not that poor either.

However, there’s a weak spot in Valencia’s defense: three-pointers. Specifically, they’ve allowed opponents to attempt 27.7 three-pointers per game, and although the shooting percentage is low (30.3%), Olympiacos has fantastic shooters in Alec Peters and Isaiah Canaan.

Barcelona vs. Milan (15 December, 21:30 EET)

In the absence of former Barcelona player Nikola Mirotic, Shavon Shields has given his all to carry Milan towards victories. However, that hasn’t been successful, even though the American with a Danish passport has scored 21.3 points per game in the last four rounds, shooting an impressive 52% from beyond the arc.

Facing Barcelona, Shields’ task becomes even more challenging because the Catalan club is one of the best defensively in the league. They’ve allowed 1009 points in 13 rounds, with only five teams allowing less.

One of those teams is Milan. And although the Italian giants haven’t been terrible defensively this season, they’ve struggled significantly on offense. It’s worth noting that Ettore Messina’s team has scored 1012 points this season and only five teams have managed less.

Milan might have a chance against Barcelona if they can neutralize Nicolas Laprovittola. The Argentine is one of the best point guards of this season and Barcelona’s offense flows well with him. He has been in good form in recent games, averaging 18.8 points and 6.3 assists in the last four matches.


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