The Top 16 hits its mid-point with all 16 teams still in playoff contention, with 15 of them holding between one and four victories, and only Fenerbahce Istanbul undefeated through six games. With eight games evenly split between Thursday and Friday, Top 16 Round 7 features a rematch of last season’s Final Four semifinal between CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos Piraeus, as well as two clashes in which teams face each other for the third time this season
Looking to continue its undefeated Top 16 run, Fenerbahce (6-0) welcomes Unicaja Malaga (2-4) to Istanbul on Thursday. These two teams played each other in the Top 16 in each of the past two seasons, with Fenerbahce winning three of those four games and sweeping Unicaja last season. This season, Fenerbahce is 8-0 at home, and during its undefeated Top 16 campaign Fenerbahce ranks first in three-point percentage (41.3%) and blocks (5.2), while standing second in scoring (87.3), index rating (104.7) and two-point accuracy (58.2%). Unicaja often stays in games thanks to being the best offensive rebounding team in the competition, claiming 14.5 of its own misses per game in the Top 16. Two teams looking to get back to winning ways, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (3-3) and Cedevita Zagreb (2-4), face off on Thursday, too. This is first time in nine years that two teams from Adriatic League face each other in Euroleague action, and first time ever in the Top 16. Zvezda’s perimeter defense holds opponents to 28.9% three-point shooting, better than all but one other team in the Top 16. Offensively, Zvezda could explore its opportunities closer to the basket as Cedevita allows a Top 16-high 58.6% two-point conversion to opponents. On Friday, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (4-2) welcomes Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (1-5) for the first game ever between them. Lokomotiv leads the Top 16 in three-point shots made with 12 per contest, while its defense allows a league-low 70.7 points per game. That number dips to 65.3 on its home floor, where Lokomotiv is 6-1 and has beaten opponents by an average margin of 12.3 points. Darussafaka is coming off its historic first ever Top 16 win, while four of its five losses have come by a single-digit margins, making it a more dangerous visitor than its record indicates. Also Friday, Panathinaikos Athens (3-3) hosts Anadolu Efes Istanbul (3-3) in a pivotal game for both teams. Winners of two in a row, Panathinaikos commits more turnovers (14.8) than any other team in the Top 16, whil only one team scores fewer than the Greens’ 72.2 points on average. However, despite its low scoring, the Panathinaikos offense ranks third in the Top 16 with 19.6 assists. On the other hand, Efes has been very successful away from home, where it has 4-4 record this season. Efes men have been the Euroleague’s best three-point shooting squad overall this season, the only one that averages 10 triples made through 16 games, and also does so with a competition-best 42.9% accuracy.
In this week’s first game on Thursday, Khimki Moscow Region (4-2) hosts reigning Euroleague champ Real Madrid (3-3) for the second time this season. Khimki won both of their regular season games, including a 84-70 home win in the season-opener last October. The last time Khimki played on its home floor, two weeks ago, it scored a club-record 111 points. These are also two of the three best teams at dishing assists in the Top 16, with Khimki tied for first (20 per game) and Madrid right behind at 19.7. Khimki also picks up 9.8 steals a night, by far the best in the Top 16. Madrid has 1-5 road record this season and allows the second-worst points per nigh, 85, away from home. Also on Thursday, group co-leader Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz (4-2) returns home after back-to-back road wins to play Brose Baskets Bamberg (3-3). To its 89 points per game at home this Euroleague campaign, Laboral has added stellar defense in the Top 16, holding opponents to 26.8% three-point and 47.5% two-point accuracy – both leading the Top 16. Laboral is also the best rebounding team in the Top 16 with 39.8 boards per contest. Bamberg visits Laboral for the first time in 10 years, and has 0-4 record against the hosts. However, this season Bamberg has snapped many such negative records, like winning its first Top 16 game and last week beating FC Barcelona Lassa for the first time. On Friday, in a Euroleague classic, CSKA Moscow (4-2) hosts Olympiacos Piraeus (3-3) in the Russian capital. Last season at the Final Four in Madrid, Olympiacos rallied late to shatter CSKA’s title hopes with 68-70 semifinal victory. These two powerhouses have played each other seven times in the last four seasons, and three times at Final Fours, with Olympiacos holding 4-3 record and winning all three Final Four clashes. However, Olympiacos has won in Moscow only once this century. CSKA is scoring 93 points per night at home in the Top 16 and leads Top 16 in index rating (106.2), two-point accuracy (59.1%), and assists (20). That league-best offense goes against an Olympiacos defense that allows the second-fewest points (71.4) this season. Also on Friday, FC Barcelona Lassa (2-4) hosts Zalgiris Kaunas (1-5), in a must-win game for both teams. Barcelona holds a 19-2 all-time record against Zalgiris, but these teams split road wins earlier in the regular season, when Zalgiris won in Barcelona 88-92. This game, however, marks the first in which legend Sarunas Jasikevicius leads Zalgiris as a head coach against the club he helped to win its first Euroleague title in 2003. Zalgiris struggles offensively, scoring just 70.5 points on average this season, the lowest of any team still in the competition, and in the Top 16 has made just 5 triples per night. Barcelona takes the best care of the ball among Euroleague teams, committing just 10.3 turnovers, but it has lost seven of its last nine games.
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