Not a single player has scored more points than Wade Baldwin in the last four rounds. Source: Srdjan Stevanovic/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Not a single player has scored more points than Wade Baldwin in the last four rounds. Source: Srdjan Stevanovic/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

EuroLeague Round 26: What to expect and who to watch?

Basketball OlyBet 06.02.2024

Round 26 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. Maccabi Tel Aviv (8 February, 19:30 EET)

The historic first modern EuroLeague battle in Riga brings together two teams whose seasons have been inconsistent. However, while one is fighting for a playoff spot (Maccabi), the other (Efes) is very likely to miss out on the postseason.

Last week, Efes parted ways with head coach Erdem Can, and longtime assistant coach Tomislav Mijatović took charge against Milano, securing a 79-73 victory. It appears that the Croatian will continue leading the team until the end of the season.

While Lorenzo Brown and Wade Baldwin were expected to be the driving forces for Maccabi at the beginning of the season, in reality, Brown has fallen short. Although the American occasionally delivers good performances, the same can be said for Tamir Blatt. Overall, Brown’s season has been a significant disappointment.

On the other hand, Baldwin has surged into excellent form in the last four rounds, averaging 23.3 points and 5.8 assists per game. The guard has also been shooting 53% from beyond the arc.

It is highly likely that we will witness a high-scoring game in the Latvian capital, given that Efes ranks last in defensive rating, and Maccabi is fourth from the bottom in the same category.

Baskonia vs. ASVEL Villeurbanne (8 February, 21:30 EET)

Baskonia is battling for a playoff spot both in the Spanish league and in the EuroLeague, and the tight and intense schedule inevitably takes a toll on the team. Injuries pose significant problems in the frontcourt, where both Matt Costello, who twisted his ankle in the previous round, and Tadas Sedekerskis, dealing with muscle issues, were absent last week. The team’s third center, Khalifa Diop, underwent surgery.

The absence of Sedekerskis is particularly crucial because, despite losing some shine as the season progressed, the Lithuanian forward remains one of the league’s best defensive players in the power forward position.

Without Costello, Sedekerskis, and Diop, head coach Duško Ivanović has no choice but to trust Estonian player Maik-Kalev Kotsar. In the last round, the center had his best game of the season, showcasing versatility.

While looking at the standings could suggest that Baskonia, especially at home, should be a massive favorite against ASVEL, breaking down the French club is not an easy task. Moreover, of their five victories, three were earned on the road.

Over the weekend, ASVEL received good news as point forward Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and frontcourt force Joffrey Lauvergne returned from injury in the French league. Both players are expected to contribute around at least 15-20 minutes.

Partizan Belgrade vs. Bayern Munich (8 February, 21:30 EET)

Partizan has been very strong at home in the Štark Arena, winning nine out of eleven games. On the contrary, Bayern’s away record is one of the league’s poorer ones, with only three wins in thirteen games on the road.

The major weakness for the Belgrade club lies in their defense, as their defensive rating ranks them third-worst in the league. However, Partizan excels in offense, ranking third in offensive rating. While Bayern is not terrible defensively, they are not outstanding either, and their offensive performance places them in the lower tier.

Truth be told, Partizan is a significant favorite. Yes, both clubs have experienced instability this season, but Bayern’s fluctuations have been more pronounced. Moreover, the home court is a true fortress for Željko Obradović’s team.

However, Bayern a great weapon against Partizan. Serge Ibaka is such a dominant center that Frank Kaminsky, Bruno Caboclo, and Balša Koprivica will likely struggle against him. Therefore, it would be wise for the Munich club to seek out Ibaka as much as possible.

Another strong suit for Bayern is rebounding. With 36.9 rebounds per game, they lead the EuroLeague in this category. If Devin Booker returns from injury, Partizan’s life on the boards will become even more challenging.

Source: Christina Pahnke/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Valencia vs. Olympiacos (8 February, 21:30 EET)

Those who appreciate defense-oriented basketball must watch this game. If Olympiacos has allowed opponents to score 75.6 points this season, Valencia has allowed only 0.3 points more. In the respective ranking, they are naturally in first and second place.

Both clubs are dealing with center issues. Valencia’s Brandon Davies is sidelined with a knee injury, and due to injuries, Olympiacos cannot utilize Nikola Milutinov or Moustapha Fall. To reinforce the frontcourt, they brought in Moses Wright, who has left a positive impression in his two games, but it’s too early for definitive conclusions.

Davies’ absence means that more responsibility falls on guard Chris Jones and forward Semi Ojeleye in the offensive end, as they form the core of Valencia’s attack with Davies. Without him, Jones has averaged 12.5 points and five assists with an excellent shooting percentage, while Ojeleye has contributed 13.5 points and six rebounds.

For Valencia, it is crucial whether they can stop Olympiacos’ snipers. The Greek giant is one of the league’s best three-point shooting teams, hitting 37.7% from beyond the arc. Just last week in a EuroLeague game, Isaiah Canaan made an impressive nine three-pointers out of 14 attempts.

In their first meeting this season, Olympiacos and Valencia played out exactly as expected: only 119 points were scored between them. The Spanish club emerged victorious with a 63-56 win, excellently controlling the game’s tempo in the final minutes.

Milan vs. Real Madrid (8 February, 21:30 EET)

Milan is in poor form, having lost four out of their last five games. The only victory came against Barcelona, where they almost squandered a halftime lead of 19 points. Milan’s results seem entirely justified as their overall performance has been far from positive.

The return of practically all injured players has not helped Ettore Messina’s team. Among them is the team’s biggest star, Nikola Mirotić, who didn’t participate in last weekend’s Italian league game, which was most likely a precautionary measure.

There are positive updates from Real’s camp, with center Walter Tavares and guard Sergio Llull, who missed several rounds due to injuries, traveling with the team to Milan. Whether they will play is uncertain, but if the situation demands, both the African and the European player are likely ready to support their team.

While Milan’s form is poor in terms of both results and performance, Real’s is also not running smoothly in recent months. Nevertheless they have lost only three out of 25 games, and Tavares’ return bolsters their defense.

However, if Real has stumbled anywhere this season, it’s been in away games. They have won all 13 home games but lost three out of nine away matches, including two of the last three.

Source: Tolga Adanali/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Crvena Zvezda Belgrade vs. Žalgiris Kaunas (9 February, 21:00 EET)

This season, Red Star Belgrade has played so inconsistently that it is challenging to predict significant success for them. Since December 19th of last year, their home performances have followed a pattern of a loss, followed by a win, then another loss, followed by a win, and so on. If the trend continues, Žalgiris will lose on Friday.

Fortunately, the outcome is not determined on paper but on the basketball court. And there, the Lithuanians’ pride and honor has been simply fantastic lately. Under head coach Andrea Trinchieri, the team has showcased excellent defense, and the offensive focus is particularly on one player.

His name is Keenan Evans, he hails from the USA and plays as a guard. In the last four rounds, Evans has scored an average of 19.5 points, shooting an impressive 58% from the field and 57% from beyond the arc. In addition, Evans has provided 4.3 assists and made two steals.

Center Laurynas Birutis has also been in excellent form, averaging 14.3 points and six rebounds during the same period. In Zvezda’s frontcourt, one of the league’s best big men, Joel Bolomboy, poses a formidable defensive and rebounding presence against Birutis.

If Zvezda wants to overpower Žalgiris, they need to focus primarily on defending Trinchieri’s players’ three-point shots. Žalgiris is the only club this season with a three-point shooting percentage above 40%, at 40.6%.

Panathinaikos Athens vs. Fenerbahce Istanbul (9 February, 21:15 EET)

Panathinaikos faced Aris in the Greek league on Monday evening and suffered their first loss of the season. What caused even more concern was that due to illness, one of the EuroLeague’s top centers, Mathias Lessort, missed the game, but he is likely to be in the lineup against Fenerbahce.

Certainly, in the clash against the Turkish powerhouse, playmaker Kostas Sloukas should be on the court, as he missed the last couple of rounds due to injury. The Greek player is a former Fenerbahce player who won the EuroLeague title with them in 2017.

Fenerbahce’s injury crisis among forwards is over, as last week Tarik Biberovic, Nate Sestina, and one of the team leaders, Nigel Hayes-Davis, returned. Dyshawn Pierre’s comeback is still a couple of weeks away, but Amine Noua, hired on a short-term contract, has shown himself in a very positive light.

The Turkish club excels in attacking the paint and, in the last five rounds, center Johnathan Motley has been in great form, averaging 17 points and 5.8 rebounds. Notably, he has an impressive shooting percentage of 73% from the field.

Even more dazzling, however, has been the performance of the guard Scottie Wilbekin. He has emerged as the leader in Fenerbahce’s backcourt, registering 19 points and 5.2 assists per game. However, his shooting accuracy, much like Kendrick Nunn, who has become Panathinaikos’ offensive engine with 18.2 points per game in the last five matches, leaves something to be desired.

Source: Cyril Lestage/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Virtus Bologna vs. Monaco (9 February, 21:30 EET)

For a long time, it seemed that Virtus would finish the regular season in the top three, but then they suffered two consecutive losses, and a back injury sidelined the team leader Tornike Shengelia. Before Round 26, Virtus finds themselves in a situation where they could potentially drop out of the top six when the regular season ends.

While Shengelia is back, it will inevitably take time for the Georgian, who was considered an MVP candidate before the injury, to return to top form. This could play into Monaco’s hands, but on Friday, they will be playing in Bologna, where Virtus has lost only one out of 12 games. That lone defeat came in the season opener against Žalgiris, where the Italian club squandered a 15-point lead twice.

Monaco is one of the best away teams in the EuroLeague, and currently, they are on the league’s longest winning streak, having defeated four consecutive opponents. They have won against top teams like Fenerbahce and Real Madrid in that span.

After Shengelia’s injury, it’s clear that Mike James is emerging as the most valuable player in the EuroLeague. The leader of Monaco has also been outstanding recently, with averages of 19.3 points and five assists in his last three games.

One key aspect of the game could be rebounding. Monaco allows opponents to grab 35.3 rebounds per game, ranking them fourth-worst in the league in this regard. If Daniel Hackett and Ognjen Dobrić can contain James and Virtus’ frontcourt could dominate in rebounding, it will be very challenging to beat Virtus.

Barcelona vs. ALBA Berlin (9 February, 21:30 EET)

Considering the overall picture, it should be the most one-sided matchup of the round, but it’s worth remembering that in the first head-to-head game, ALBA managed to defeat the Catalan giant 74:70 in Berlin.

In the standings, there’s a 12-win difference between the two teams, with Barcelona having 17 wins and ALBA having five. Additionally, the German club is the worst away team in the league, at least in terms of the win percentage, having lost 11 out of 12 away games.

ALBA faces added challenges as their key forward, Louis Olinde, has been absent due to a concussion since December 14th of the previous year, and the team leader Johannes Thiemann hasn’t played in the last two rounds due to a back injury. Olinde won’t be playing against Barcelona, and Thiemann’s status is unclear. Barcelona might have sharpshooter Alex Abrines back from injury.

While Barcelona is one of the best offensive teams in the league, ALBA struggles defensively. Moreover, the Berlin team faces difficulties in rebounding, as their opponents average 35.7 rebounds per game, earning them a gold medal in this category, but unfortunately from the wrong perspective.

Rebounding, on the other hand, is one of Barcelona’s strengths, as they have grabbed an average of 36.1 rebounds this season, ranking third in the league.


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