The 17th 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!
Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Fenerbahce Istanbul (28 December, 19:30 EET)
Although Efes lost two games last week, they received several good news as well, as the injury breaks ended for Elijah Bryant, Ante Žižić, and Rodrigue Beaubois. Particularly important among them are Bryant’s and Beaubois’ returns, as the frontcourt isn’t as weak in performances as the backcourt.
Especially considering the two additions made during the season have been impressive. Forward Mike Daum has averaged 11.8 points per game in six matches, and center Daniel Oturu has recorded 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in five games.
While Efes has lost three consecutive games in the EuroLeague, Fenerbahce has won three matches in a row. The good streak for the Istanbul team began when the legendary Šarunas Jasikevičius was hired as head coach, replacing Dimitrios Itoudis.
The arrival of the Lithuanian has been particularly pleasing for guard Scottie Wilbekin. The quick, skillful, and sharpshooting American has averaged 16.6 points and 4.6 assists during Jasikevičius’ tenure.
Although Fenerbahce has won the last two Istanbul derbies in the EuroLeague, Efes has secured four consecutive victories in the Turkish championship, which occurred during last season’s semifinal series.
Partizan Belgrade vs. Virtus Bologna (28 December, 19:30 EET)
Partizan had secured five consecutive victories before they encountered the reigning EuroLeague champions, Real Madrid last week. Like practically everyone else, the Serbian powerhouse couldn’t escape defeat.
However, in the upcoming week, they will return to facing beatable opponents, especially at their home ground, the Štark Arena, where Partizan has won six out of seven games.
While Partizan excels on their home turf, Virtus struggles away from home. They’ve lost four out of their last five matches on the road, with their only win coming against Baskonia. The closest of the four defeats came against Valencia in the double round, where they lost by eight points.
The most significant question for Partizan is how to contain Tornike Šengelia. Virtus’ leader is performing at an MVP level, with the Georgian averaging 16.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. Additionally, he excels in defense.
Virtus must reign in Kevin Punter. In the last six rounds, only Real managed to keep the American below ten points. Even against the excellent defensive team of Valencia, Punter managed a Player Index Rating (PIR) of 25.
Žalgiris Kaunas vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv (28 December, 20:00 EET)
It seems that a black cat has crossed the path between Žalgiris’ management and head coach Kazys Maksvytis, as the Lithuanian is in his position solely due to the intervention of the players. As nice as this support is, but the team needs to start winning on the court, as Žalgiris is currently enduring a five-game losing streak in the EuroLeague.
Maccabi could be the ideal opponent for Žalgiris because the Israeli club’s defense hasn’t stood up to any criticism in recent rounds. In their last five games, they’ve conceded at least 81 points, with most opponents reaching the 90-point mark.
Oded Kattash’s team is troubled by the fact that one of their major stars has to go on another injury hiatus. Guard Wade Baldwin, who missed the first six rounds of the season, will return to the court in the latter half of January.
However, Baldwin’s injury isn’t a doomsday scenario, as the American’s performances have been quite inconsistent, and they have a capable guard in Tamir Blatt in good form to play along Lorenzo Brown.
Even though Žalgiris has suffered many losses, they’ve shown a fighting spirit, while Maccabi’s internal atmosphere seems as cheerful as a funeral parlor. Hence, Keenan Evans and Rolands Šmits have a fairly good chance to help Žalgiris get back on the winning track.
ASVEL Villeurbanne vs. Real Madrid (28 December, 21:00 EET)
To be honest, writing several paragraphs about this game would be a waste of time and space. ASVEL has won two out of 16 games, Real Madrid has won 15. You can guess for yourself who will win this match.
Panathinaikos Athens vs. Crvena Zvezda Belgrade (28 December, 21:15 EET)
Panathinaikos went through last week with a clean sheet and has now won three consecutive games. It’s important to note that star center Mathias Lessort, who took a painful fall in the match against Milan, is available against Zvezda, fortunately without any serious injury.
The main architect behind the Greek giant’s winning streak is point guard Kostas Sloukas. In the last three games, he has averaged 14.6 points and 7.3 assists. Finally, the man acquired from rival Olympiacos in the summer is performing as expected.
Speaking of Zvezda, the topic of Shabazz Napier cannot be overlooked. The American was brought to the team with high expectations in the summer but couldn’t find his rhythm, fell out with the coach and the club, and departed for Milan. Oh, and Ognjen Kuzmić, not Mikey Tobey, as widely reported, will make way for the new center Freddie Gillespie.
Last week, Zvezda finally managed to win an away game in the EuroLeague, beating Maccabi 98-92. It was the Serbian powerhouse’s first away victory in eight games.
There was no escape for the bad streak to end as Miloš Teodosic achieved a PIR of 40, scored 27 points and dished out 14 assists. After Napier’s departure, the keys to Zvezda’s backcourt are firmly in the hands of the 36-year-old legend.
Milan vs. Baskonia (28 December, 21:30 EET)
Ettore Messina’s team cannot seem to put together more than a two-game winning streak, and although the EuroLeague table is very even, the Italian giants are three wins away from the play-in, which is quite a significant gap considering this season.
However, perhaps it’s Napier who makes Milan play like gold. The American joined the fashion capital club midway through the previous season, and with him, the team collected nine wins and three losses in the EuroLeague.
There are other positive signs for Milan as well. Billy Baron has returned in good form from injury, Shavon Shields continues to perform effectively, and center Niccolo Melli has a PIR of 20.3 in the last three games.
For Baskonia, it’s extremely interesting to see how their core copes with an extremely tough schedule. The Spanish club has a whopping 12 games in December, and since Duško Ivanović’s rotation isn’t very deep, the key players are playing huge minutes.
One of them is guard Codi Miller-McIntyre. The American, playing his first season in the EuroLeague, has surged alongside Markus Howard after the Montenegrin’s arrival. Miller-McIntyre’s average stats in his last three games are 11.3 points, 10.3 assists, and 6.7 rebounds.
Bayern Munich vs. Valencia (28 December, 21:30 EET)
At last, Bayern can count on their captain, Vladimir Lučić, who got injured in April this year. The Serbian was back last week, and although he didn’t shine statistically, Lučić is precisely the type of player who knits Bayern together. Additionally, he is very, very good defensively!
In the match against Valencia, Bayern primarily needs all their offensive firepower to shine since the Spanish club boasts one of the EuroLeague’s best defenses. However, they have a weakness: containing opponents’ guards.
And that’s good news for Bayern as they have Sylvain Francisco, who scored 21 points in the previous round against Monaco, or Carsen Edwards, who’s constantly navigating the court and always a threat when in possession.
While defense is Valencia’s major strength, Bayern’s strongest aspect lies in rebounding. They grab 38.4 rebounds per game, which is unmatched by anyone else in the EuroLeague.
While Valencia’s big men will likely handle Bayern’s centers and power forwards in the rebound battle, there are uncertainties concerning the forwards and guards. Isaac Bonga, Leandro Bolmaro, and Lučić can be very effective on the offensive boards and bring in easy points.
ALBA Berlin vs. Olympiacos (29 December, 21:00 EET)
One might think that the second-to-last team in the EuroLeague stands no chance against Olympiacos. That’s what Barcelona, who hold the second position in the standings, thought as well, but ALBA managed to lull them to sleep at home with a 74-70 victory.
ALBA has won three out of 16 games this season, and all victories have come at home. Besides Barcelona, they’ve caused trouble for Milan and Žalgiris.
While Olympiacos won the regular season last year, currently they’re not even in the top ten. Eight wins and eight losses might be disappointing, but fortunately for them, the play-in or -off train hasn’t left the station yet.
ALBA is a favorable opponent for Olympiacos because, as a weak defensive team, they probably can’t harm the Greek giant’s biggest weakness: making their offense fluid. In spite of that, ALBA can’t be underestimated!
AS Monaco vs. FC Barcelona (29 December, 22:00 EET)
Monaco is a team this season that can at times be very good but can also be completely lackluster. When they bother to, Monaco locks down all teams in defense, but fortunately for opponents and unfortunately for the fans, this effort isn’t seen very often.
However, when you have an offensive weapon like Mike James, more often than not, you end up simply scoring more points than the opponents. The American might be playing some of the best basketball of his career, and in the last six rounds, James has averaged 22.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists.
The 33-year-old guard has scored 4239 points in the EuroLeague, trailing leader Vassilis Spanoulis by 216 points. Between them is the Frenchman Nando De Colo (4383), but as ASVEL’s player struggles with an injury, it wouldn’t be surprising if James takes the lead before dethroning Spanoulis.
Let’s talk a bit about Barcelona too. After a very promising start to the season, they have started to falter, and their performances are no longer as fluid as before. This is also reflected in the results, as they’ve won three out of the last five games. Furthermore, Barcelona has lost to two bottom-half teams: ALBA and Milan.