The action continues with a set of enticing games in Round 6 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, including the season’s early pace-setters attempting to maintain their momentum against two under-achieving giants. Here’s your guide to the best of this week’s games.
In-form Valencia aims to punish struggling CSKA
If you had been asked to predict which team would be still searching for form with a 2-3 record and which would be flying high at 3-1 ahead of CSKA Moscow’s home meeting with Valencia on Thursday, it’s unlikely you would have picked the Russian team to be the strugglers. But this has been a tough start to the season for Coach Dimitris Itoudis’s team, which has lost two games in a row, including an overtime thriller at Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade last week. Valencia, meanwhile, is looking to complete a hat-trick of praiseworthy road wins after already triumphing at Real Madrid and Zalgiris Kaunas, ending the latter’s unbeaten start to the season last week.
CSKA’s big problem in the last couple of games has been defense, having allowed 93 points to ALBA Berlin and then being powerless to prevent Jordan Loyd from blasting 31 points for Zvezda. That defensive frailty will be tested by a confident Valencia team in the wake of a 57-point second half at Kaunas, with five different players scoring in double figures and the team achieving outstanding shooting percentages of 73.3% for two-pointers and 43.8% from long range.
Can Bayern’s dream prolong Real’s nightmare?
After watching his team extend its winning run to a club-record four consecutive games by overcoming Olympiacos Piraeus last weekend, FC Bayern Munich Coach Andrea Trinchieri quipped: "Don’t wake me up!" And Bayern’s 4-1 start to the season certainly has exceeded all expectations, prompting optimism that the German team can keep its dream alive all the way into the playoffs.
This week’s opponent Real Madrid, on the other hand, is stuck in the middle of something approaching a nightmare after suffering a 1-4 start to the season. Strangely, though, Los Blancos probably came away from their most recent defeat, a Clasico setback at Barcelona last Friday, with their spirits somewhat lifted: After having been outplayed in the first half, Real 'won' the final two quarters 31-45 to restore some lost pride and suggest they can soon jumpstart their season. Thursday’s meeting in Madrid could well be decided by whether the home side can find the fluency to penetrate Bayern’s defense, which has allowed an average of just 73.3 points per game during its four-game winning run.
Fenerbahce aiming to bounce back at Maccabi
After suffering three consecutive defeats, Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv (2-3) got its season back on track with a dramatic overtime win at Khimki Moscow Region last week – in large part thanks to 26 points from Tyler Dorsey, including a late three-pointer to tie the game and force the extra period. On Thursday Maccabi heads home to take on a floundering Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (2-3), which is aiming for a similar re-ignition after losing three games in a row.
Adjusting to the post-Zeljko Obradovic era was always going to be a big challenge for the team, especially with several players following the iconic coach through the exit door. And it’s perhaps not surprising that Fener is particularly struggling offensively, averaging just 74.6 points per game so far this season – third-worst in the league. Improving that stat won’t be easy against a Maccabi team which has been very active on defense, averaging 8.2 steals per game, which is third-best in the competition. Scoring star Scottie Wilbekin thieved 4 alone in last week’s win, and Maccabi’s high-energy approach will provide a big challenge for Coach Igor Kokoskov’s men.
Can Khimki get its first win?
After starting the season with a terrible run of luck both on and off the court, Khimki Moscow Region must be wondering what it has to do to get its first win. The Russian team has been playing much better than its 0-5 record, but a combination of COVID-19 absentees and an overtime loss to Maccabi last week conspired against them. The latest attempt by Coach Rimas Kurtanaitis’s men to get that opening victory comes on Friday evening at home against Crvena Zvezda (2-2), which had exactly the opposite emotions last week with the Jordan Loyd-inspired overtime win over CSKA.
This one could well be a shoot-out between Loyd, who leads the league in scoring with an average of 23.8 points per game, and perennial Top Scorer Trophy candidate Alexey Shved, who is not yet eligible for the rankings but fired 32 points against Maccabi last week in his first appearance of the season. Khimki does have another stats leader within its ranks: Jonas Jerebko is the competition’s top rebounder so far, averaging 8.6 boards per game and closely followed by his teammate Devin Booker with 8.4 rpg.
Baskonia and Barca renew growing rivalry
Round 6 concludes with an all-Spanish affair as standings co-leader FC Barcelona (4-1) travels to face TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz (2-1). These two teams have, of course, enjoyed many memorable tussles over the years, but their recent history has been very much in favor of the men from the Basque country with three big wins in the last 10 months.
First, Baskonia gave Dusko Ivanovic, who is also a former Barca coach, his first victory after being reappointed last December by beating Barca. That was the last EuroLeague meeting between the teams, but they squared off again in June in the Spanish ACB league title game, which was won dramatically by Baskonia through a buzzer-beater from Luca Vildoza. And just a few days ago it happened again, as new Barca Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius suffered his first domestic league loss with an 82-71 decision in Vitoria. In fact, Baskonia’s EuroLeague record against Barca has been strong for several years, winning eight of their last 10 meetings since 2014, so the visitors will be hoping that history counts for very little on Friday night.