A great start in the Euroleague season with only three teams remaining unbeaten
Three games into the Euroleague season and only three teams remain unbeaten, thanks to their quality and roster continuity from their runs to the Final Four the previous season. The champions Real Madrid and finalists Fenerbahce won all three of their games comfortably. CSKA had a more difficult time in the first two games but came out victorious in the end. The rest of the Euroleague faces questions, as there are no clear favorites for this year’s Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz and these first weeks give us some insights into what’s to follow.
The first insights into what’s to follow
(2-1) Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Fenerbahce Istanbul (3-0)
Euroleague History: Anadolu Efes 1 – 9 Fenerbahce
Sinan Erdem Dome, October 25, 2o18 / 19:30 CET
The 2017 Euroleague champions Fenerbahce boasts one of the most impressive rosters in the league, even after the Tyler Ennis’ horrific injury during the third game of the season, with a front line full of players with NBA experience (Vesely, Lauvergne, Datome) and an ever-improving Sloukas at the helm. Anadolu Efes once again invested heavily, aspiring to return to the Final Four almost 20 years since the last time they achieved so, boosting their perimeter with NBA-level guys like Shane Larkin and Rodrigue Beaubois. Early returns seem successful, as the French guard scored 26 points and assisted the game-winning shot in the exhilarating victory against Khimki the previous week.
Fenerbahce has dominated their rivals in the Euroleague to date, a fact that adds a more incentive to the game.
(2-1) Olympiacos Piraeus – Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv (1-2)
Euroleague History: Olympiacos 9 – 8 Maccabi Tel Aviv
Peace and Friendship Stadium, October 25, 2018 / 21:00 CET
After suffering a surprising loss at home against Armani Milan, only the second in nine games between the two, Olympiacos will be looking to bounce back with a win before their difficult contest against CSKA in November 1st. Nikola Milutinov has been the Reds’ most consistent performer this season but he is going to face a tough challenge from Maccabi’s big men Alex Tyus and Tarik Black (acquired from the Houston Rockets). Olympiacos will turn to its captain Vasilis Spanoulis to secure a victory on Friday while trying to find their offensive rhythm. Keep an eye on him to have a big game. Another key area? Focus on finding and hitting open three-pointers. The Reds have found the target on only 18 attempts from the three-point line, the second fewest in the league.
Olympiacos will also have to find a way to stop Scottie Wilbekin who can explode at any game, as he did against Buducnost, scoring six three-pointers in 11 attempts on his way to 28 points. Olympiacos has the personnel to contain Wilbekin in Williams-Goss and Mantzaris, however, as a team, they have conceded the most three-pointers in the league to date.
David Blatt, Olympiacos coach, will return to Tel Aviv after serving Maccabi for 10 years in the past, both as a head or an assistant coach.
(1-2) Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul – FC Barcelona Lassa (1-2)
Euroleague History: Darussafaka 1-1 Barcelona
Volkswagen Arena, October 26, 2018 / 19:15 CET
Both teams face up in Istanbul with the same record. FC Barcelona Lassa hasn’t enjoyed the best of starts in the Euroleague. Central among its struggles has been the slow incorporation of Chris Singleton to its game. The ex-Panathinaikos star has been off the mark during Barcelona’s losses against CSKA Moscow and the newcomer Gran Canaria, before bouncing back against Bayern Munich. On the other hand, Ante Tomic is enjoying a resurgence under Svetislav Pesic. Darussafaka added an interesting mix of US players to Eric and Kidd who remain from their triumphant 2017/18 Eurocup campaign. Early signs are encouraging, as former NBAer Ray McCallum is their second-leading scorer and top assist man as of yet.
(2-1) Panathinaikos OPAP Athens vs. Zalgiris Kaunas (1-2)
History: Panathinaikos 14 – 6 Zalgiris
Olympic Sports Center Athens, October 26, 2018 / 20:00 CET
A week after becoming the third-winningest coach in Euroleague history, Xavi Pasqual is in for a chess match against one of the most promising coaches in European Basketball, Euroleague legend Sarunas Jasikevicius. ‘Saras’ won his last Euroleague title as a player with Panathinaikos during the 2008/09 season.
On the court, a lot will come down to three-point shooting. While both teams find themselves at the bottom of the standings regarding the number of attempts, they sit at opposite ends of the table percentage-wise. Zalgiris has hit an incredible 51% of their attempts while Panathinaikos struggles, hitting only 27%. Langford has come out of the gate as expected, scoring in bunches. Calathes will always bend defenses and dictate the tempo of the game like a maestro. However, Pasqual has yet to find the guy to unlock defenses behind those two. Ten out of the twelve Panathinaikos’ players have scored between 20 and 24 points in the three Euroleague contests.
Zalgiris has never won in Athens against Panathinaikos and they will be looking to break the tradition to solidify themselves as an elite Euroleague team after their surprising run to the Final Four during the past season. Nate Wolters is a similar player to the recently departed Kevin Pangos. He has enjoyed a great start to the season, averaging 20 points and six assists.
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