Under the guidance of former head coach Kazys Maksvytis, Laurynas Birutis did not have a very significant role, but for Andrea Trinchieri, he is a much more important player. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Under the guidance of former head coach Kazys Maksvytis, Laurynas Birutis did not have a very significant role, but for Andrea Trinchieri, he is a much more important player. Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

EuroLeague preview: What to expect and who to watch?

Basketball OlyBet 23.01.2024

Round 23 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!

Fenerbahce Istanbul vs. Virtus Bologna (25 January, 19:45 EET)

The leader of Virtus and one of the best players in the EuroLeague, forward Tornike Shengelia, was absent due to a back injury in Round 22, but it is highly likely that the Georgian will be ready for the game against Fenerbahce. Undoubtedly, this would be crucial for the Bologna club, as the versatile forward plays a crucial role both in offense and defense.

The performance of Luca Banchi’s team has been inconsistent in recent weeks, but to overcome Fenerbahce, consistency is key. While they managed to dig themselves out of a hole against ASVEL in Round 22 with a 28-9 run in the fourth quarter, the Turkish giant is a much more formidable opponent, and it’s unlikely that Virtus can lock them down defensively in the same manner.

Admittedly, Fenerbahce’s situation is not all roses and sunshine. In the previous round, they suffered a defeat at the hands of Žalgiris Kaunas, after which head coach Šarunas Jasikevičius publicly expressed his anger, reprimanding the players and accusing them of unprofessionalism.

The loss was compounded by the injury to Dyshawn Pierre. The forward injured his thigh in a seemingly innocuous situation in the third quarter and, according to Turkish media, will be sidelined for one to two months. The absence of the Canadian is particularly concerning, given that starting forward Nigel Hayes-Davis is still dealing with an injury, and there are also concerns about the fitness of Nate Sestina and Tarik Biberovic. While Jasikevičius may find a way to cover the small forward position, the situation at power forward is critical.

At least Fenerbahce has the advantage of playing at home in this game. In Istanbul, they have won ten out of eleven games this season, and the support of the home crowd could provide the wounded team with the energy boost they need.

ALBA Berlin vs. Crvena Zvezda Belgrade (25 January, 21:00 EET)

ALBA may be struggling with just four wins, but this season, they have been most dangerous on their home court, winning three out of eleven games. They have won against Milan, Barcelona, and Žalgiris at home.

In Round 22, ALBA welcomed back guard Martin Hermannsson to their lineup. The Icelander played for the Berlin club from 2018 to 2020, then moved to Valencia. However, the Spanish team released him in January of this year. In his second debut, he scored eight points and provided two assists against Bayern Munich.

Before the season, Zvezda dreamed of reaching the final four, but it doesn’t seem very likely. Nevertheless, they are in the play-in mix, despite their season being overshadowed by several close losses. In Round 22, they suffered a narrow defeat by just one point, falling 90-91 to Baskonia.

In that game, Zvezda had to cope without guards Miloš Teodosić, Nemanja Nedović, and Nikola Topić. As a result, a greater responsibility fell on Yago dos Santos, who delivered an impressive 26 points. It’s worth noting that the game also marked the debut of another guard, Javontae Smart, who contributed 11 points.

While Nedović and Topić are expected to be absent against ALBA, there is a possibility of Teodosić’s return. As center Joel Bolomboy stated after the Baskonia battle, Zvezda missed the Serbian legend a lot.

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Panathinaikos Athens (25 January, 21:05 EET)

Maccabi remains a bit of an enigma because when you look at the statistics, their performances, and the league standings, things don’t seem to add up. A team with 12 wins and ten losses should not be ranked so high based on the numbers and how they have played, but as the cliché goes, statistics are the biggest lie.

In the Round 22 loss to Olympiacos, one of the team’s leader, point guard Lorenzo Brown, was absent due to a back injury. According to Israeli media, the European champion with Spain is likely to miss the game against Panathinaikos.

Against Olympiacos, Maccabi struggled to contain center Nikola Milutinov, who dominated with 20 points and 20 rebounds. Looking ahead to the game against Panathinaikos, this is a concerning sign, especially considering that Mathias Lessort is one of the league’s top big men.

Panathinaikos is currently on a four-game winning streak, which is the longest in the EuroLeague at the moment. While it was initially thought that Ergin Ataman’s team would accumulate victories primarily through their offense, their success has been attributed to their strong defense.

Mainly thanks to Jerian Grant, Panathinaikos has recently neutralized both Shane Larkin and Mike James, who are among the league’s top guards. Now, the American is targeting Maccabi’s other leader, Wade Baldwin.

Source: Milos Vukadinovic/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Bayern Munich vs. ASVEL Villeurbanne (25 January, 21:30 EET)

As we mentioned last week, Bayern needs to start winning if they want to reach the playoffs. The first step was taken in Round 22 when they defeated ALBA 82-65 in a German derby.

Similar to the situation with Maccabi, the term “enigma” can also be used when talking about ASVEL. In Round 22, they showed their teeth to Virtus and led for most of the game, but in the last quarter, their offense completely collapsed. It’s clear that ASVEL is unpredictable, but achieving success requires maintaining a high level of play for the entire 40 minutes.

In the game against Virtus, American power forward Deshaun Thomas made his EuroLeague debut for ASVEL. The experienced player, acquired from Joventut Badalona in Spain, scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds.

For Bayern, the key to their game plan is stopping ASVEL’s point guard Paris Lee. He is the sole orchestrator of the French club’s offense, and if he is not contained defensively, ASVEL becomes dangerous. For instance, against Virtus, he scored 14 points and dished out 12 assists, and his pick-and-roll plays with center Youssoupha Fall worked excellently at times.

Fortunately for Pablo Laso, he has several defensive stalwarts at his disposal who could neutralize Lee. Nick Weiler-Babb, Vladimir Lučić, and Sylvain Francisco are certainly capable of that!

Real Madrid vs. Olympiacos (25 January, 21:45 EET)

Olympiacos suffered a major setback on January 22, when in the Greek Championship game against Panathinaikos, Nikola Milutinov got injured. The in-form Serbian’s injury is even more painful as the club’s other center, Moustapha Fall, is also sidelined due to injury. As a result, Filip Petrušev, who is more of a power forward, will see significant minutes as a center.

To achieve success against Real, Olympiacos needs to control the pace of the game, as their greatest strength, defense, doesn’t shine in an up-tempo, run-and-gun style of play. In their first encounter this season, they managed this to some extent, but Real still emerged victorious with a 77-71 score.

While Real has won all ten home games this season, they suffered their largest defeat of the season in Round 22 when they fell 74-98 to Monaco on the road. Interestingly, Monaco didn’t play exceptionally, but Real’s performance was poor both defensively and offensively.

Injuries complicate the life of the defending champions. Several players are dealing with minor issues, and it’s highly likely that one of their key players, center Walter Tavares, won’t be on the court.

Real surely wants to prove that the loss to Monaco was an anomaly, but Olympiacos is a highly dangerous opponent.

Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Monaco (26 January, 19:30 EET)

In Round 22, Efes welcomed back forward Will Clyburn, so now they have all the essential pieces in place. Despite being only 15th in the standings, the Turkish club is one of the in-form teams in the league, having consecutively defeated Barcelona and Virtus, both at the top of the table.

Erdem Can’s team managed to impose their offense against strong defensive teams in both games, scoring 99 points against Virtus and 98 against Barcelona. They have displayed great versatility, with multiple players contributing significantly in scoring, both from the backcourt and the frontcourt.

With the confidence gained from the victory over Real, Monaco faces Efes with immense self-assurance. By the way, guard Élie Okobo returned to the team after a suspension.

One key aspect of this encounter is which star will prevail: Efes’ leader Shane Larkin or Monaco’s standout player Mike James. Both are currently playing the best basketball in their careers. Importantly, they are not just focused on personal statistics but willingly involve their teammates.

Looking at the statistics, both Efes and Monaco have been at or near the top in many aspects of the EuroLeague in the last three rounds. If we highlight something specific, Efes might aim to dominate the rebounding battle in this game and focus on attacking the paint. For instance, Monaco has allowed opponents to score 57.7% on two-pointers, ranking them second from the bottom.

Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Baskonia vs. Valencia (26 January, 21:30 EET)

Looking at the results of this season, Baskonia seems to be the kryptonite for Valencia. In November, Valencia suffered a Spanish league defeat with a score of 74-83, followed by another loss in EuroLeague on the first day of December with a score of 84-98. As evident from the points scored, Valencia has been unable to slow down Baskonia offensively, despite defense being their strength.

When talking about Baskonia, Markus Howard cannot be overlooked. The American has been highly effective lately, scoring a lot of points. In the last four rounds, he has averaged 26.8 points, shooting an impressive 54% from three-point range. Yes, Valencia is known for its strong defense, but Howard is currently playing so well that it seems nothing can stop him.

One key to Baskonia’s success against Valencia could be their three-point shooting. In the last three rounds against, Valencia has allowed an average of 26.7 three-point attempts, ranking them third from the bottom. During the same period, Baskonia has attempted 28 three-pointers per game and made them at an outstanding rate of 48.8%, which is the best in the league.

Therefore, Valencia’s defensive formula seems straightforward: take away the space from beyond the arc and guard Baskonia’s shooters tightly. Doing so should significantly increase Valencia’s chances of winning the game.

Partizan Belgrade vs. Žalgiris Kaunas (26 January, 21:30 EET)

Partizan’s season has been unconsistent, but they have performed well on their home court. At Štark Arena, they have defeated eight out of ten opponents. However, on Friday, they face a very dangerous team in Žalgiris.

Round 22 marked the first non double-round week for Žalgiris head coach Andrea Trinchieri, who had the luxury of calmly preparing for the game. The result was impressive – a tremendous win against Fenerbahce, and as the coach noted, every player on the court contributed positively.

The return of Arnas Butkevičius also brought joy. The Lithuanian forward is one of the best defenders in the EuroLeague but suffered an injury at the end of November, expecting to be sidelined for two to three months. However, he made an earlier comeback.

Partizan has struggled throughout the season to impede opponents’ big men, making them one of the weakest teams in defense and rebounding in the EuroLeague. This is a positive aspect for Žalgiris center Laurynas Birutis, who has been in good form, averaging 12 points and 5.7 rebounds in the last three rounds.

Partizan will have guard Aleksa Avramović back from injury for the Žalgiris game, bringing a lot of energy and defense to the team. The team leader Kevin Punter should also be back, as he participated in Monday’s Adriatic League game.

Milan vs. Barcelona (26 January, 21:30 EET)

Milan has struggled to find its rhythm this season, and in Round 22, the return of key player Shavon Shields from injury and the debut of NBA-imported point guard Rodney McGruder didn’t bring success. Valencia, with an 11-0 run in the closing moments, dashed Milan’s hopes of returning to Italy with a win.

Ettore Messina’s team boasts a strong defense, placing them among the top teams in the EuroLeague, yet their offense remains one of the weakest. Consequently, it’s no wonder they are just 13th in the standings.

Barcelona is not in perfect shape either. While they currently hold the second position in the standings, they suffered a significant defeat against Efes in the previous round. In that game, their offense appeared static and slow, emphasizing the absence of primary playmaker Nicolas Laprovittola. It remains unclear whether the Argentine can play against Milan.

Milan has earned seven out of its nine victories at home this season. Barcelona, meanwhile, has faced difficulties on the road lately, winning only one of their last five away games, with a hard-fought 85-80 victory against Žalgiris.


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