Round 20 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!
Fenerbahçe Istanbul vs. Partizan Belgrade (9 January, 19:30 EET)
Last week, Fenerbahçe suffered their first defeat of the Šarunas Jasikevičius era when they lost 76-85 at home to the other Belgrade giant, Crvena Zvezda. At times, it seemed that the Turkish club had control of the game, but the Serbian team then started switching everything on defense, Miloš Teodosić orchestrated attacks, Joel Bolomboy finished them, and Fenerbahçe found themselves on their knees.
Partizan also won one out of two games last week and they too lost to Zvezda. However, unlike Fenerbahçe’s defeat, Partizan fell behind right away and never managed to pose a significant threat.
Fenerbahçe has won eight out of nine home games this season, making them one of the league’s top teams. Partizan’s away form isn’t commendable as they’ve lost seven out of ten battles, including 16-point losses in the last two.
One of the biggest weaknesses of Jasikevičius’ team is their paint defense, and Partizan has an ideal weapon who could cause a lot of trouble for Fenerbahçe: Bruno Caboclo. The Brazilian has hit 78% of his two-point shots this season and has averaged 11.8 points per game.
While Partizan is one of the league’s best offensive teams, they struggle in defense and rebounding. The versatile Fenerbahçe is the clear favorite in this encounter.
Monaco vs. Baskonia (9 January, 20:00 EET)
Monaco was one of three clubs that lost both games last week. However, what gained more attention was the news that guard Élie Okobo has been temporarily removed from the team due to disciplinary reasons.
This week, Monaco might regain guard Jordan Loyd, who has only participated in five games this season due to injury and has performed below his usual standard. However, when Loyd is in good form, he ranks among the top players in the EuroLeague.
Without Okobo and Loyd, the burden on Monaco’s leader, Mike James, will increase further. Nevertheless, the American likely has no objections, and fortunately for James and Monaco, forward Alpha Diallo has emerged strongly in the last five games, averaging 15.6 points during that period.
Although Baskonia doesn’t play beautiful basketball, they are still in the playoff fight. While their defense seems solid, they have problems in offense and rebounding. For instance, their three-point shooting stands at a mere 33.3%, and they grab an average of 7.8 offensive rebounds per game.
While Monaco can lock down any team defensively on a good day, Baskonia benefits from the inconsistency of the principality representatives’ game, especially in defense. This provides Baskonia with the opportunity to hand Monaco their third consecutive loss.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid (9 January 21:00 EET)
Yes, Real Madrid has dominated the EuroLeague this season, winning 17 out of 19 games, but… In the last three rounds, their usually smooth game has started to falter, securing only one narrow victory last week in a quadruple-overtime match against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, with a final score of 130-126.
Aside from the win, a positive aspect for Real in that game was the return of forward Guerschon Yabusele to the court after overcoming a knee injury, marking his first appearance since mid-November. However, other forwards such as Rudy Fernández and Gabriel Deck have been sidelined due to injuries for some rounds.
In the last four games, Real’s Džanan Musa has been in splendid form. He was the driving force in Real’s offense last season, but his performance during the first half of this season was inconsistent and overall lackluster. From Round 16 onwards, Musa has been averaging 23 points per game while shooting an impressive 74% from the field, delivering a 40-point performance against Efes.
It’s worth noting that Real is the only EuroLeague club that hasn’t lost a single game at home – boasting a perfect record of nine wins out of nine. In contrast, Bayern is among the weakest away performers, losing nine out of eleven away games.
Looking at their last four games, Bayern has struggled to contain opponents, allowing them to score at least 84 points in three of those matches. Perhaps Real can now turn a new page in their offense. The opponent certainly seems suitable!
Panathinaikos Athens vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul (9 January, 21:15 EET)
Efes is currently enduring the longest losing streak in the EuroLeague, having been defeated six times in a row. In the last four games, their losses have been narrow, with the biggest point difference being seven against Baskonia.
The Turkish club hasn’t managed to turn things around despite the performances of Shane Larkin, who has averaged 24.8 points, six assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game in the last four rounds. It’s worth noting that the American, carrying the team on offense leading to a lot of shot attempts, has been shooting 46% from three-point range.
Efes’s major weakness lies in their defense. For instance, in the last five games, opponents have shot 41.6% from beyond the arc against them. Additionally, they allow an average of 20.8 assists per game, and their opponents commit very few turnovers – just 8.8 per game – which indicates a passive defense.
Panathinaikos has been enjoying a very comfortable period, winning four out of their last five games. Their defensive performance has been excellent, with the only concern being that they’ve allowed opponents to shoot 59.6% from two-point range since Round 15. Efes’ center Daniel Oturu could pose a significant challenge for Panathinaikos in the paint.
By the way, Efes has been one of the poorest-performing away teams this season, winning only two out of eleven matches on the road.
Milan vs. ALBA Berlin (9 January, 21:30 EET)
Milan is still missing their biggest stars, Shavon Shields and Nikola Mirotić, but last week in the EuroLeague, they saw the return of point guard Shabazz Napier. Against Olympiacos, he scored 14 points and had five assists, but the game against Bayern didn’t go well for the American.
On January 4th, it became clear that the sharpshooter and one of the best off-ball players in offense, Billy Baron, will have to rest for two to three weeks due to an elbow injury. However, the power forward Giampaolo Ricci is ready to play again, although the Italian won’t get significant minutes.
In the last five rounds, Milan has been the best defensively in the EuroLeague. That’s nice, but they struggle offensively and in rebounding. Nonetheless, having an excellent defense provides a solid foundation to build upon.
That’s especially true against ALBA. Olympiacos showed a few rounds ago what happens when employing aggressive defense against the German club. ALBA’s players struggled in the second half, committing numerous turnovers, resulting in an almost 30-point loss, despite their lead in the first half.
By the way, ALBA is the only team in the EuroLeague that hasn’t secured an away win.
Valencia vs. Žalgiris Kaunas (9 January, 21:30 EET)
Last week was challenging for Žalgiris, as while they narrowly won against ALBA at home in new head coach Andrea Trinchieri’s debut, two days later they suffered a clear defeat against ASVEL on the road. The performance of the Lithuanian club was lacking in both matches.
With Trinchieri at the helm, Žalgiris consistently fields three guards on the court. The primary aim is to simplify the life of the team leader, Keenan Evans, so that he doesn’t have to focus on both his own scoring and improving the performance of his teammates. This approach allows the American to concentrate more on what he does best: scoring.
Since the arrival of the Italian coach, one player’s role has significantly increased – point guard Lukas Lekavičius has played 21 minutes per game under Trinchieri, scoring 11 points and providing 3.5 assists. With him on the court, Evans’ job becomes noticeably easier, as the Lithuanian, alongside the American, is practically the sole player in Žalgiris’ backcourt capable of breaking opponents’ defense, getting the defense moving, and therefore creating space for teammates.
For Žalgiris, Valencia is likely one of the more challenging opponents to face, as the Spanish club boasts excellent defense. In the first encounter between the two teams, Valencia emerged victorious in Lithuania with a score of 87-72.
Over the last five rounds, Valencia has had a weakness in one aspect of their defense, as they have allowed opponents to attempt 27.8 three-pointers per game, with a 38.8% success rate. Žalgiris has players with good shooting abilities, and shining in three-point shooting seems to be the best chance for Trinchieri’s team to upset Valencia on the road.
ASVEL Villeurbanne vs. Crvena Zvezda Belgrade (9 January, 21:30 EET)
Thursday night must’ve been a huge party in Lyon, because ASVEL won their first EuroLeague match after November 15th, defeating Žalgiris in Round 19 on their home court, backed by great performances from Youssoupha Fall, Paris Lee, and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot.
The first home win of the season in the EuroLeague didn’t ease the pressure on head coach Gianmarco Pozzecco, as the Italian parted ways with the team just two days after defeating Žalgiris. The club president, NBA legend Tony Parker, was highly critical of Pozzecco’s work, and broadly speaking, the Frenchman’s interview with L’Equipe can be summarized as follows: the coach promised one thing but did another.
Instead of Pozzecco, the team will be led until the end of the season by the former assistant coach Pierric Poupet.
However, on Tuesday, they will once again be underdogs, as Zvezda secured two victories last week. Moreover, they didn’t merely defeat weaker opponents; they caused trouble for Fenerbahçe and Partizan, both of whom are ahead of them in the table. Despite having lost eight out of ten away games, the Belgrade team’s favored status remains unchanged.
There is no doubt that ASVEL’s number one goal is to neutralize Miloš Teodosić. The 36-year-old EuroLeague legend has been in stunning form, as the playmaker undresses practically all defenses and finds his open teammates.
How could ASVEL pose a threat to Zvezda? One potential strategy appears to be outshooting them, considering statistics. The Serbian powerhouse allows opponents to shoot 38.6% on threes and 56.2% on twos, both of which are one of the highest percentages in the EuroLeague.
Barcelona vs. Olympiacos (10 January, 21:30 EET)
Barcelona was facing a crisis in their game before last week, but victories against Real and Baskonia have significantly boosted their confidence. Center Jan Vesely shone in both matches, scoring 25 points per game and shooting an impressive 69% from the field.
However, Olympiacos has two excellent weapons to counter the Czech player. The 218 cm tall center, Moustapha Fall, is in fantastic form, and Nikola Milutinov is also gaining momentum. Both the Frenchman and the Serbian are defensively strong.
While Olympiacos’ overall performance this season has been lacking a bit, they are currently on the longest winning streak in the EuroLeague, defeating ASVEL, ALBA, Monaco, and Milano consecutively. In terms of statistics, in the last five rounds, Olympiacos ranks among the top teams in offense, defense, and rebounding.
During the same period, Barcelona has shown one clear weakness in their defense: they have allowed opponents to attempt 28.4 three-pointers per game, with a remarkable 40.1% success rate. In the last five rounds, Olympiacos has made 38.2% of their three-point attempts, indicating their shooters are in good form and ready to bomb away against Barcelona.
However, playing at home has been a significant advantage for Barcelona this season, winning nine out of ten games. Their only loss came against Milan, where they were not at all prepared to fight.
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Virtus Bologna (10 January, 22:00 EET)
It’s quite astonishing that Maccabi has won 11 out of 19 games, considering their performance and various metrics. Of course, it’s evident that hosting home games in Belgrade due to the war in Gaza has significantly impacted the Israeli club, for whom home court advantage was one of the biggest in the EuroLeague.
If Maccabi intends to be a contender this season, one of their stars, Wade Baldwin, needs to step up his game. The guard has been inconsistent this season, and he scored a total of 25 points last week, shooting just 9 of 25 from the field. Additionally, they need to improve their defense, as they are allowing 87.2 points per game.
Virtus, under Luca Banchi’s guidance, has been simply fantastic this season. Their game is versatile and consistent, with their biggest strengths lying in defense and the remarkable form of Tornike Šengelia.
Moreover, they are becoming one of the best away teams in the league, winning five out of nine games, which is the same as Panathinaikos and Baskonia, and three less than Real.