Round 2 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season is highlighted by a showdown between the competition’s two most recent champions, both of whom are looking to bounce back from defeat in last week’s openers. Here’s your guide to this week’s action.
Efes and CSKA seek to bounce back
There’s no doubt about the big game of Round 2, with the two most recent champions going head to head when 2019 winners CSKA Moscow travel to reigning champ Anadolu Efes Istanbul. It is also a key bounce-back game for both teams after they started the season with disappointing defeats. Efes suffered from a terrible opening quarter to eventually go down 82-69 against Real Madrid, while CSKA had exactly the opposite experience as it crumbled following an excellent first 10 minutes to lose 84-74 at AX Armani Exchange Milan.
A key factor could be the dominance of the paint, because CSKA has been left short-handed in that department by the continuation of Nikola Milutinov’s terrible luck with injuries. Despite its eventual defeat, a bright spot for Efes in Madrid was a strong debut performance from Filip Petrusev (17 points) so the champs’ new big man will look for another big role in Istanbul on Friday.
Classic showdown in Piraeus
A pair of Round 1’s most impressive winners square off on Friday night in a classic clash of European basketball when Olympiacos Piraeus hosts Real Madrid. Los Blancos started a new era in impressive fashion by downing Efes, as new signings Thomas Heurtel and Guerschon Yabusele led the way with a team-high 15 points apiece. Olympiacos is also in new territory following the summer retirement of Vassilis Spanoulis and the Reds showed they are ready to base its challenge on brutal defense with a thumping 75-50 opening night victory over Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Friday’s meeting will feature a battle between two of Europe’s biggest big men, with new Olympiacos signing Moustapha Fall (2.18 meters) going up against the phenomenal Walter Tavares (2.20 meters), who started the season in menacing fashion with a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds, plus 2 blocked shots. Their confrontation inside the paint will not be one for the faint-hearted.
UNICS and Monaco in EuroCup Finals rematch
Competition newcomer AS Monaco made a very assured start to life in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, comfortably downing Panathinaikos OPAP Athens to grab its first win in style. Now the men from the principality have an opportunity to make another piece of club history by gaining their first EuroLeague road victory with a long trip east to take on UNICS Kazan on Friday.
The game is a repeat of last season’s EuroCup Finals, which saw Monaco crowned champions after winning home and away games by very small margins, 89-87 and 83-86. Rob Gray was the key performer on that occasion, with the Monaco guard scoring 23 and 25 points to earn the EuroCup Finals MVP award and he should be available to make his EuroLeague debut after missing last week’s win over Panathinaikos with injury. UNICS is still bruising from its 69-70 Round 1 loss against Zenit St Petersburg, so it will have double motivation to derail Monaco’s bright start and gain revenge for the finals defeat in April.
Clash of collective wills between Bayern and Barca
FC Barcelona – last season’s regular-season standings leader – made a mighty impressive start to the new campaign, showing a team-first approach to easily overcome ALBA Berlin. That game saw Sarunas Jasikevicius give at least 13 minutes of playing time to all 12 of his players, all of whom responded by scoring at least 2 points and grabbing at least 1 rebound, with the impressive league-high tally of 28 assists coming from nine different players for good measure.
That kind of collective effort was the chief factor in FC Bayern Munich’s surge into last season’s playoffs and Andrea Trinchieri’s men again showed their team mentality to overcome several injury absentees and put up a strong fight at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv in Round 1, eventually losing 69-68. The German team will look to put that frustration to good use when it hosts Barca on Thursday night and will hope to recover some of the missing players whose absence in Israel effectively forced Trinchieri to play with eight men.
Will home court count again as Greens host Fenerbahce?
The home team has nearly always prevailed in recent meetings between Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, with seven of their last eight games taken by the host. That trend could be tested this week, though, with Fenerbahce heading to the Greek capital on the back of a morale-boosting first win under new coach Sasa Djordjevic – who was in charge of the Greens during the 2015-16 season – while Panathinaikos suffered a worryingly comprehensive road loss at Monaco.
The Greens will look for much better performances from two key players in the backcourt. Summer signing Kendrick Perry shot 0-of-10 from the field (0-6 on two-pointers and 0-4 on threes), while veteran leader Nemanja Nedovic also suffered a night to forget as he also scored zero points by going 0-of-3 from two-point range and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. Panathinaikos will desperately hope that bad night proves to be a one-off as it seeks to get off the mark against Fenerbahce on Thursday.