The 15th 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. Real Madrid (19 December, 20:00 EET)
Real has been the best away team this season, winning six out of seven games. Their only loss came in overtime against Fenerbahçe Istanbul, when Real’s point guard, Facundo Campazzo, was trapped in the right corner, committed a turnover, and Yam Madar hit a difficult shot with the buzzer.
In the previous round, Zvezda defeated ALBA Berlin 85-71, but they have failed to win two consecutive games this season. However, they perform well at home, winning ten out of their last 12 EuroLeague home games.
Both teams are almost at full strength: Real is missing forward Guerschon Yabusele due to a knee injury, while Zvezda has been without Adam Hanga since the sixth round. The return of Hanga, who moved from Madrid to Belgrade last summer, seems imminent, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it happens against Real.
The Spanish club doesn’t have any significant weaknesses in their game, and statistically, they are last in only one aspect: they allow an average of 44 two-point shots, but opponents have only converted 48.7% of them, which is the league’s best figure.
Therefore, Zvezda needs nearly flawless execution to defeat Real and simultaneously hope for a really bad day for the Spanish powerhouse.
ALBA Berlin vs. Barcelona (19 December, 21:00 EET)
ALBA has only won two EuroLeague matches this season, both of which were played at home. However, history is not on their side against Barcelona, as the clubs have met 14 times in the league, with ALBA defeating the Catalan team only once.
Admittedly, Barcelona hasn’t performed particularly well away from home recently. Out of their last four away games, they’ve won only one, and their losses have come in games where they scored 75 points or less.
Scoring that sum against ALBA should be a breeze since, on average, 86.5 points are scored per game against the German club.
Barcelona gained a lot of confidence from their victory in the Spanish league over the weekend, defeating another EuroLeague team, Baskonia, with a score of 82-62. In this game, forward Jabari Parker, who had missed the previous round of the EuroLeague due to illness, returned to the court.
For ALBA, center Christ Koumadje, standing at 224 cm, will be back in the lineup by Tuesday, and in the previous round against Zvezda, important players Sterling Brown, Matt Thomas, and Louis Olinde returned to the court.
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Baskonia (19 December, 21:05 EET)
Maccabi has won six out of their last seven matches against Baskonia. They are a decent offensive team, as the Israeli squad has scored at least 90 points in their last four games this season.
Under coach Duško Ivanović, who was appointed at the end of October, Baskonia has won seven out of nine EuroLeague games. They’ve been in good form in road games, securing three consecutive victories there. Interestingly, Baskonia last defeated four consecutive opponents away from home in April 2007.
Two players have thrived under Ivanović’s guidance: guards Markus Howard and Codi Miller-McIntyre. Howard has averaged 20.4 points per game in the last nine rounds, trailing only behind Shane Larkin (20.6). Miller-McIntyre’s average stats of 8.8 points, 6.9 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals paint the picture of a Swiss Army knife. Nevertheless, there is ample room for improvement for the American, given that he has made only 44% of his field goals.
While one of Maccabi’s leaders, Wade Baldwin, has had inconsistent performances, their second star, Lorenzo Brown, has found stability in the last three games. During this time, the former European champion with Spain has averaged 21 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds.
While Maccabi likely enters the game against Baskonia at full strength, the Spanish club continues to suffer from Matt Costello’s ankle problem. However, his absence isn’t a crucial factor, given Maik-Kalev Kotsar’s good performances at the center position.
Virtus Bologna vs. Olympiacos (19 December, 21:30 EET)
Olympiacos has proven to be unbeatable for Virtus: they have met six times in the EuroLeague, and the Italian club has suffered six defeats.
However, this season, Virtus has an excellent opportunity to break that streak, as Luca Banchi’s men belong to the league’s top tier while Olympiacos ranks among the average teams. Moreover, Virtus has been outstanding at home, having lost only one out of eight games, and that was against Žalgiris Kaunas, against whom they twice squandered a 15-point lead. Olympiacos’ away form has been poor, having lost three out of their last four games.
While one could write every week about Virtus leader Tornike Shengelia’s prowess — albeit that would be monotonous — in the last round against Baskonia, the sharpshooter Marco Belinelli shone with 27 points. At 37 years old, the Italian averages 15 points per game, shooting 45.7% from beyond the arc. He is aging like fine wine!
In the previous round against Valencia, Olympiacos received two good and two bad news: guard Nigel Williams-Goss returned from injury, and power forward Filip Petrušev made his debut after coming back from the NBA. However, both underperformed against Valencia.
Virtus will be without big man Jordan Mickey, whereas for Olympiacos, the participation of Alec Peters remains uncertain, as his wife is either already given birth or is about to do so.
Valencia vs. Partizan Belgrade (19 December, 22:00 EET)
There isn’t any other team in such good form as Partizan in the EuroLeague. Željko Obradović’s men hold the longest winning streak in the league, having won four consecutive games, three of which were played in Belgrade, and two went into overtime. Their excellent performances have propelled them to fourth place in the standings.
By the way, the teams faced each other for the first time in the EuroLeague only last season, and Valencia won both encounters. While Partizan currently boasts the longest winning streak in the league, under the guidance of former top player Alex Mumbrú, Valencia has also made defeating opponents a recent habit by winning three consecutive games.
The match between Partizan and Valencia is intriguing because these clubs represent different approaches, with one emphasizing defense and the other focusing on offense. Specifically, Valencia has allowed an average of 74.1 points per game, which is the league’s best figure. Meanwhile, Partizan has managed to score an average of 87.6 points, trailing only behind Real (89.1).
Three players have been particularly exceptional for Partizan: center Bruno Caboclo, and guards P. J. Dozier and Kevin Punter. Of these, the latter has scored at least 20 points in two out of the last three games.
For Valencia, there’s uncertainty surrounding the participation of forward and one of the team’s leaders, Semi Ojeleye, guard Jared Harper will certainly be out. The Serbian giant faces more issues, as Uroš Trifunović and Aleksa Avramović won’t play for sure, and big men Frank Kaminsky and Alen Smailagić might miss the game.
Fenerbahçe Istanbul vs. Žalgiris Kaunas (20 December, 19:30 EET)
Fenerbahçe has a new head coach, as last week Šarunas Jasikevičius took over from Dimitrios Itoudis. Oh, the Lithuanian began his coaching career with Wednesday’s opponent, Žalgiris.
Jasikevičius’ first game as Fenerbahçe’s coach was certainly a success, as they secured an 86-74 victory against Monaco at home. While there was nothing exceptional in their offense, the Turkish giant performed very well defensively, particularly in stopping Monaco as a team.
It’s interesting to note that both Nigel Hayes-Davis and Nick Calathes started against Monaco. The former fell out of form while playing for Jasikevičius in Barcelona, while the latter criticized the Lithuanian’s coaching style after departing from the Catalan club.
Against Žalgiris, Fenerbahçe is undoubtedly the favorite, especially at home. They are the only team alongside Real to have won all their home matches this season. The Spanish club has won seven out of seven home games, while Istanbul’s team has won all six.
By the way, as a coach, Jasikevičius has played five home games against Žalgiris in the EuroLeague and has always emerged victorious with an average margin of victory of 19.2 points.
Monaco vs. Panathinaikos Athens (20 December, 20:00 EET)
The clubs have faced each other four times in the EuroLeague, and Monaco has won all the games. However, the context is important because while Monaco has always been a top team, the last seasons have been poor for Panathinaikos. However, this season they are back in contention!
Monaco has won four out of their last five EuroLeague home games. It’s interesting to note that in each winning game, they limited opponents to 80 points or less. Panathinaikos’ average points scored this season is 81.9.
Kostas Sloukas, who moved from Olympiacos to Panathinaikos amidst much fanfare in the summer, had a rollercoaster of a start to the season. However, in the last round against ASVEL Villeurbanne, he showed what he’s capable of – 18 points and career-best 12 assists are impressive, although they came against the league’s worst defensive team.
Unlike Sloukas, Monaco’s backcourt leader Mike James has been much more consistent. For instance, in the last five rounds, he has averaged league leading 23.4 points per game. During the same period, the American also averaged six rebounds, 4.6 assists, and two steals per game.
However, Fenerbahçe showed in the last round how to stop Monaco. Often, they isolated James with one defender and despite scoring many points again, James couldn’t involve his teammates due to solid team defense. Each time James passed the ball out while driving to the hoop, Fenerbahçe was ready, forcing Monaco into many tough shots.
Bayern Munich vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul (20 December, 21:30 EET)
Bayern lost one of their centers before the week when Freddie Gillespie joined Zvezda. However, this isn’t a disaster for the German club, as Serge Ibaka is the main center; Devin Booker can also effectively play in that position, and the 23-year-old Croatian Danko Branković can manage as the third option.
But now, let’s focus on the upcoming match. Pablo Laso’s team from Munich has won five out of the last six games against Efes. Bayern has won three out of the last three head-to-head battles on their home court.
Efes has struggled away from home. They have lost two out of the last 11 matches, allowing opponents to score at least 85 points in nine games.
Their situation is made more challenging by the fact that no other club has such a long injury list. Tibor Pleiss, Erkan Yilmaz, Will Clyburn, Rodrigue Beaubois, Derek Willis, and Ante Žižić are all injured. Elijah Bryant’s participation is uncertain.
Despite the tough times, Efes has seen some sunshine. For example, center Tyrique Jones has been performing very well, and a few weeks ago, they acquired forward Mike Daum from the Italian club Tortona. With four games played so far, Daum has scored an average of 13.8 points per game, shooting 81.8% for two-pointers and 52.6% for three-pointers.
Milan vs. ASVEL Villeurbanne (20 December, 21:30 EET)
ASVEL has won just two games this season, both of which were on the road: first, they defeated Žalgiris, and then the other bottom-placed team, ALBA.
While ASVEL has been, to put it mildly, terrible, the situation isn’t much rosier for Milan either. True, in the last round, they ended a three-game losing streak by surprisingly defeating Barcelona away.
As is often the case in life, there’s no good without some bad. It turned out that, against Barcelona, power forwards Giampaolo Ricci and Johannes Voigtmann sustained injuries. Before the match, it was revealed that guard Maodo Lo would be out for several weeks, and earlier, Milan’s biggest star, Nikola Mirotić, was known to be injured. However, in Sunday’s Italian league game, Billy Baron made his first appearance of the season. He’s known as one of the best off-the-ball players and volume shooters in the EuroLeague.
For the win against Barcelona, Milan didn’t rely solely on their second star Shavon Shields, as alongside the American, Niccolo Melli (16 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 fouls drawn), Devon Hall (21 points), and Diego Flaccadori (15 points) also had excellent performances. But as is typical for Milan, one good performance doesn’t count for much, as the team often plays very inconsistently.
This means that ASVEL can indeed hope for a third win of the season. Moreover, Milan has already lost to ALBA.