With two teams already in the playoffs, one more team – the winner or Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar vs. Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade – will surely qualify for the playoffs this week. However, if the results go certain way, as many as four teams can clinch a playoff spots in Top 16 Round 12. The action will span three days this week, with marquee all-Spanish battle Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz vs. FC Barcelona Lassa lighting the fuse on Wednesday, three more games on Thursday, and four to cap a potentially pivotal week on Friday!
History will be made in Krasnodar, Russia on Thursday as the winner of a clash between Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (7-4) and visiting Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (7-4) will secure a playoff spot for the first time ever. Each team needs either one more win or one more Anadolu Efes Istanbul loss to advance. There is more at stake than just playoff berths, because winner of Thursday’s game will also have an upper hand in a race for second place, and with it home-court advantage. Lokomotiv, which will try to snap a two-game losing streak, allows league-low 69.9 points and just 64 on its home floor, where it also forces 15.8 turnovers, second-best in the Top 1 6. Zvezda leads the Top 16 by holding opponents to 29.6% three-point shooting, but away is among the three worst road teams in free throw shooting, with just 10.2 per game on 64.6% accuracy. Also on Thursday, already-eliminated Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (3-8) welcomes a Panathinaikos Athens (7-4) team that’s at the doorstep to the playoffs. Darussafaka’s 55.6% two-point accuracy at home ranks second, but the team has failed to reach 70 points in four of the last six games. Darussafaka makes a league-low 62.7% of its free throws and commits a league-high 14.5 turnovers, which explains some of team’s offensive struggles. Panathinaikos has won six of its last seven games. Its defense that forces the most turnovers (15.1) and makes the second-most steals (7.7) in the Top 16. Panathinaikos will qualify for the playoffs with a win if it’s combined with a loss by Anadolu Efes Istanbul (5-6), which plays at home against already-eliminated Unicaja Malaga (3-8) on Friday. Efes has a two-game winning streak and, depending on Thursday’s results in the group, might need to win to avoid elimination. At home, Efes is ranked fourth in assists (19.4), fourth in blocks (3.4), fifth in offensive rebounding (12.2), and fifth in two-point accuracy (54.1%) in the Top 16. Unicaja ranks first in offensive rebounding (13.6), but nonetheless scores the fewest points (70.3) in the Top 16, even fewer (68.8) on the road. Also on Friday, already eliminated last-place Cedevita Zagreb (2-9) welcomes group winner Fenerbahce Istanbul (10-1) to the Croatian capital. Cedevita has lost seven games in a row and has just a 2-8 overall record this season at home. Fenerbahce’s defense has been dominant this season, allowing just 71.4 points and 47.8% two-point shooting, both second-lowest in the Top 16, while leading this phase with 5.4 blocks per night.
In Round 12’s first game on Wednesday, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz (7-4) hosts FC Barcelona Lassa (6-5) knowing that a win will give it one foot in the playoffs. When two teams met in Top 16 Round 5, Laboral edged Barcelona on the road in overtime 78-81 behind 28 points from big man Ioannis Bourousis. This will mark the 12th time these two teams meet in Euroleague action, with Barcelona holding a 6-5 edge, including victories in the last three games in Vitoria. But Laboral is 9-1 at home this Euroleague campaign, while Barcelona is 1-6 in the last seven road games, with the second-fewest points (72.4) away from home in the Top 16. Laboral’s defense holds opponents to a league-lows of 46.9% two-point accuracy and 6.8 three-pointers per game on 31.8% accuracy. Laboral also ranks first in a tie in rebounds (36.2). With its own victory, Laboral will qualify for the playoffs if CSKA Moscow or Real Madrid also win later in the week. On Thursday, Brose Baskets Bamberg (5-6) will continue its battle to make the playoffs when it plays host to already-qualified CSKA (8-3). It’s their fourth meeting this season and 12th over the years, and CSKA has won the previous 11. CSKA will secure home-court advantage in the playoffs with a victory and will also clinch first place if that happens and Barcelona has beaten Laboral by between 1 and 24 points on Wednesday. Bamberg is 8-1 in the confines of Brose Arena this season and hits 10.2 triples on 45.1% three-point shooting there, both second-best among Top 16 home teams. Bamberg also ranks first in free throw percentage (83.6%) in home games, but CSKA leads Top 16 overall in index rating (107.9), scoring (92.5), shooting three-pointers (43.8%) and triples (10.6), plus ranks second in assists (20.4). In the first of two Friday games, already-eliminated Zalgiris Kaunas (2-9) hosts Khimki Moscow Region (5-6) in a clash of the only two teams that changed coaches during this Top 16. Khimki continues seeking its first Group F road win to remain in the playoffs hunt. The visitors lead the Top 16 in assists (20.8) and steals (8.6) and rank second in scoring (83.6). Zalgiris ranks second in offensive rebounding (12.1), but dishes the fewest assists (13.8) and ranks last in both three-pointers made (4.6) and three-point accuracy (28.7%) leading to the Top 16’s second-lowest scoring average (71.9 ). Last, but certainly not the least, in a rematch of last year’s championship game, Olympiacos Piraeus (5-6) and Real Madrid (6-5) go against each other in a pivotal game at the Peace & Friendship Stadium. Madrid won their first meeting in the Spanish capital 84-72. These two teams have won three of the last four Euroleague titles, meeting in the 2013 and 2015 championship games. Madrid has 18-16 all-time lead in their series, but has not won in Piraeus in six tries spanning more than a decade. Olympiacos has an 8-2 home record this Euroleague season, but Madrid arrives ranking third in index rating (94.7), scoring (83.4), assists (19.6) and three-pointers made (9.7) in the To 16, while committing the fewest turnovers (10.7).
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