The Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 is entering its final stretch. Round 10 has a clash for first place in Group E, and one of those teams – Fenerbahce Istanbul or Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar – has a chance to become first team to clinch a playoff berth. Eight games are split evenly with four each on Thursday and Friday
In the Round 10 opener, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (7-2) hosts Fenerbahce Istanbul (8-1) in a battle for first place in Group E. Fenerbahce qualifies for the playoffs with a victory, and Lokomotiv qualifies if it wins and a day later Anadolu Efes Istanbul beats Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul. Fenerbahce rallied late to beat Lokomotiv 85-79 in their Top 16 Round 3 game, and that six-point margin could play a big role when teams meet again on Thursday. Fenerbahce arrives to Krasnodar with the best record in the Top 16. Its offense that ranks second in three-point accurcay (41.9%) and fourth in scoring (83), while its defense is first in blocks (5.6) and holds opponents to the second-lowest two-point accuracy, 47.8% . Lokomotiv has won four games in a row and has the Top 16’s best defense, allowing just 70 points on average, a number that dips to 66.3 for home games. Lokomotiv’s defense also forces the most turnovers (15.4), while its offense attempts (28.9 per game) and makes makes (11.1) the most three-point shots in this phase. In the other Thursday game in Group E, one losing streak will come to an end when Cedevita Zagreb (2-7) welcomes Unicaja Malaga (2-7) to the Croatian capital. Cedevita has lost five games in a row and Unicaja six. Unicaja has 3-0 all-time record against Cedevita, which is only 2-7 on its home floor at Drazen Petrovic Zagreb arena this season. The hosts hope to get their offense going against Unicaja, which allows opponents to hit 43.6% of their three-point attempts, highest in Top 16, but is also ranked first in offensive rebounding with 14 per game. On Friday, in a city-derby of two teams hoping to stay in playoff contention, Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (3-6) plays host to Anadolu Efes Istanbul (3-6). Darussafaka enters the game on a two-game winning streak, while Efes has dropped four in a row and five of six games since downing Darussafaka 84-71 in Round 3 of this group. Efes also won the Turkish League meeting between them in January 76-80 on the road. Through this entire season, Efes ranks second in three-point shooting (40.9%) and third in assists (19.7). Efes is also third in scoring (82.5), but that number dipped to 73.5 during the current losing streak. Defense has been key for Darussafaka in winning three of its last four games: in those wins, it has allowed just 66 points per game. In a clash of two teams looking for victory that would significantly improve their playoff chances, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (5-4) welcomes Panathinaikos Athens (6-3) to the Serbian capital on Friday. Zvezda used three different arenas this season to play home games, and now it’s back to Pionir, where it has a 7-1 record this season. Zvezda’s perimeter defense lets opponents make just 7 triples per game on 31% accuracy, both of which are the second-best in the Top 16. Panathinaikos only makes 33.7% of its three-point tries. Zvezda beat the Greens in Athens 63-74, but Panathinaikos has now won five in a row, and its defense has climbed all the way to second best, allowing just 71.6 points per game in the Top 16.
In a pivotal game for both teams, second-place Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz (6-3) hopes to get back to the winning ways when third-place Khimki Moscow Region (5-4) pays a visit for the Game of the Week on Thursday. Laboral concedes the third-fewest points, 72.7 per game, and hold opponents to 28.9% three-point shooting, the best in Top 16. The hosts’ will pit that defense against a Khimki offense that ranks first in assists (20.9) and third in scoring (84.2) at this stage. But Khimki is winless on the road in the Top 16, where it gives up 11.3 triples per game on 45.9% accuracy. Also Thursday, Brose Baskets Bamberg (3-6) hosts Olympiacos Piraeus (4-5) for the second time ever and first time since 2010. Bamberg is 2-1 all-time against the Reds, including 72-77 victory in Piraeus in Top 16 Round 3. On its home floor in Top 16, Bamberg makes an astounding league-highest 49.3% of its three-point shots, making a second-best 11 per game. Bamberg does well protecting its paint by allowing opponents a league-low 8.4 offensive rebounds per night: however, Bamberg is the Top 16’s worst team rebounding its own misses, with mere 5.7 offensive rebounds per game. After winning five road games in a row earlier in the season, Olympiacos has now lost four straight away from Piraeus by an average margin of 13.8 points. In its victory last week over Laboral Kutxa, the Reds matched their season-high with 23 assists. In a classic showdown on Friday, Zalgiris Kaunas (2-7) hosts Real Madrid (5-4). This is fourth consecutive year two teams play each other in the Top 16. Madrid holds a 15-6 all-time record against Zalgiris, 10-1 since 2013. The Lithuanian powerhouse comes into this match second in offensive rebounding (12.3) in the Top 16, but is ranked low in field goal accuracy: last at 44.4% for two-pointers and a third-from-the-bottom 32.2% on three-pointers. Madrid, on the other hand, ranks second in scoring (84.8), third in assists (20.2) and three-pointers made (9.7). In a mouthwatering matchup for the last game of the round, FC Barcelona Lassa (4-5) faces a must-win situation hosting group leader CSKA Moscow (7-2). During the past decade, these two teams have faced each other five times at Final Fours. This is the fifth time during that span that CSKA visits Barcelona with the teams holding identical 2-2 records in the previous four games. CSKA leads the Top 16 in scoring (92.1) and ranks second in assists (20.3). No team shoots better three-pointers than CSKA (44.5%), and its 10.8 triples per game rank second in Top 16. Barcelona ranks in the top four with 39.1 % three-point shooting and on its home floor in Top 16 ranks fourth in scoring (84.8), third in two-point accuracy (56.9%) and third in assists (19.3), too.
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