The 2015-16 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 is set to start with plenty of action to offer. The 16 surviving teams were divided into two groups of eight based on their regular season standings. The four best teams in each group will advance to the playoffs. Every team starts from scratch, so make sure you don’t miss the start of the Top 16 – it will be a non-stop battle until the Final Four in Berlin! Three games will be played on Wednesday, followed by five more on Thursday
In the only game in this group on Tuesday, Unicaja Malaga takes on Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul for the third time this season; the teams split regular season home wins. Unicaja was held to a season-low 57-point performance in Istanbul, in a game in which all of its 12 players committed at least one turnover. Unicaja had a 1-7 start in the Top 16 last season and wants to avoid another slow start. Darussafaka will play its first-ever Top 16 game. On Friday, Anadolu Efes Istanbul takes on Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. These teams face each other for the first time since 1998. Efes led the Euroleague regular season in three-point shooting (46.6% 3FG). Zvezda was fifth in offensive rebounds (11.7 orpg.) and two of its players, Maik Zirbes (third, 16.3 ppg.) and Quincy Miller (fourth, 16.1 ppg.) were among the top regular season scorers. Cedevita Zagreb welcomes Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in an interesting showdown. It is Cedevita’s first-ever Top 16 game, and it plays against the best defensive team in the regular season, as Lokomotiv allowed just 68.3 points per game. It will be a special game for Dontaye Draper, who led Cedevita to the 2010-11 Eurocup Finals and was chosen as the MVP of the competition that season. In a battle of heavyweights, Panathinaikos Athena visits Fenerbahce Istanbul. Fenerbahce head coach Zeljko Obradovic led Panathinaikos to five of its six Euroleague titles. Obradovic coached current Panathinaikos boss Sasha Djordjevic in Partizan – in fact, Djordjevic hit the game-winning triple that gave Partizan its only Euroleague title – and Obradovic’s first of an all-time record eight continental crowns, in 1992.
In an all-Russian showdown, Khimki Moscow Region hosts CSKA Moscow to get the Top 16 opened on Tuesday. CSKA led the regular season in performance index rating (110.1) and points (91.1 ppg.), but Khimki was first in blocks (5.5 bpg.) and ranked among the top five in rebounds (37.3 rpg.) and steals (8 spg.), so it is a showdown in which ball circulation and defensive aggressiveness will be crucial. Both teams play each other several times each year so there will be little room for surprises. In a rematch of last season’s epic playoffs series, Olympiacos Piraeus hosts FC Barcelona Lassa on Tuesday. In both teams’ last game at Peace & Friendship Stadium, Georgios Printezis’s buzzer-beating triple lifted Olympiacos past Barcelona 71-68 and on to the Final Four. Barcelona is one of the best offensive teams this season (82.2 ppg.) and Olympiacos has one of the best defenses (69.2 points allowed pg.). On Wednesday, Zalgiris Kaunas welcomes Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz. Laboral is tied with Olympiacos for first place in rebounds until now (38.3 rpg.), but Zalgiris has also done really well around the defensive glass (25.6 drpg.). Ioannis Bourousis (23.6 per game) led the regular season in index rating. Real Madrid takes on Brose Baskets Bamberg in the Spanish capital. Madrid is on a three-game winning streak, which allowed Los Blancos to reach the Top 16. Bamberg is 0-20 in the Top 16 and has a 2-34 record against the teams in this group, so it hopes to break with its recent past.
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