Round 2 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague offers up several local and national derbies and some more big-name teams looking to spark their seasons following opening-night losses. Here is your guide to the best of this week’s games.
Efes and Fener set for derby date
The shock result from the opening round saw last season’s standing leader Anadolu Efes Istanbul (0-1) suffer a home defeat against last season’s bottom-placed team Zenit St Petersburg. There is never any disgrace in losing one game in the endlessly competitive Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, but Efes will be anxious to avoid starting the season with a 0-2 record, so there is even more significance in this week’s local derby clash with crosstown rivals Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul (1-0).
The club from the Asian side of the city marked the debut of new coach Igor Kokoskov by gaining a comfortable opening night victory over Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, and solid contributions from newcomers Lorenzo Brown, Edgaras Ulanovas and Danilo Barthel underlined the sensation that this year’s version is a very different Fenerbahce. For Kokoskov, there could be no better way to endear himself to his new team’s fans than by securing a road win in the local derby, while Efes will be hoping that superstar Shane Larkin is able to return from injury. Expect playoffs-style intensity when these two local rivals clash at the Sinan Erdem Dome, where they have not played since October of 2018 in the EuroLeague, on Thursday night.
Real looking for rhythm
Although it is not exactly a “local” derby, there will be a similar story at the WiZink Center on Thursday night when Real Madrid (0-1) looks to bounce back from an opening round defeat against fellow Spanish side Valencia Basket (1-0), which will be aiming to maintain its 100% record. Real delivered an under-par performance to slip to defeat at TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz last Friday, with coach Pablo Laso willing to admit that his team had failed to produce its best. In particular, the Spanish side struggled for offensive fluidity, registering just 7 assists – its worst mark in more than seven years – as no Real player recorded more assists than turnovers. Backcourt leaders Facu Campazzo and new signing Carlos Alocen will attempt to find their rhythm against familiar opposition in the form of a Valencia team which put on a good defensive show to scrape past LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne last week. And it will be an emotional occasion for Real’s summer signing Alberto Abalde, who moved to Madrid in the summer after spending the last three seasons and making his breakthrough into the EuroLeague with Valencia.
Power versus experience in Greek derby
The second local derby of the week takes place on Friday night, when Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (1-0) will seek to stay perfect against visiting Olympiacos Piraeus (0-1), which is aiming to recover from an opening week home loss against Zalgiris Kaunas. Panathinaikos tied its best offensive rebounding performance (19) on the road this century to secure a tight Round 1 win over Khimki Moscow Region. It goes without saying that similar levels of intensity and physicality will be required in the hothouse environment of the Athens-Piraeus derby. A bright spot for Olympiacos in its defeat to Zalgiris was the re-ignition of the backcourt partnership between new signing Kostas Sloukas and veteran team leader Vassilis Spanoulis, who combined for 12 assists. Big occasions like this one are nothing new to Sloukas and Spanoulis, and similarly experienced Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas will look to his backcourt duo to control the tempo and allow his team to play the game rather than the occasion. So will Panathinaikos’s size or Olympiacos’s experience prove decisive? We will know on Friday.
ALBA and Bayern battle for German supremacy
The derby theme continues with a meeting between German rivals ALBA Berlin (0-1) and FC Bayern Munich (0-1), which carries the added incentive of giving the winner its first victory of the season. Narrow defeats in Round 1 will have given both teams cause for optimism despite the unwanted result. This looks certain to be a highly competitive match-up. Bayern head coach Andrea Trinchieri promised that his players will take out the frustration of their overtime loss to AX Armani Exchange Milan on their next opponents. Friday night’s game will be only the second meeting at the EuroLeague level between the teams, with last season’s scheduled game in Munich never taking place. In the game that did take place in Berlin in December, Bayern snatched a dramatic 76-77 overtime victory with decisive free throws by Maodo Lo – who has since switched teams and will now be lining up in ALBA uniform. If that last meeting is any guide, we can expect another thriller in the German capital on Friday.
CSKA seeking to score anew
Along with Efes and Real, the third of last week’s high-profile losers was CSKA Moscow, which went down 76-66 in a battle of heavyweights at FC Barcelona. CSKA (0-1) will now go in search of its first victory in Thursday’s home opener against dangerous Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv (1-0), which overcame a tough challenge from ALBA Berlin to take victory on opening night. Among CSKA’s problems in that Barcelona game, shooting stood out. Its players made just 45.3% of their two-point shots, 29.6% from downtown and 66.7% at the free throw line. Save for Daniel Hackett, who made 3 of 4 triples, and Darrun Hilliard, who made 2 of 4, the rest of the team shot 2 for 19, or 10.5%, from deep. Of course, CSKA is known for scoring points, having led the EuroLeague in that department in each of the four full seasons between 2014-15 and 2017-18 and finished second in 2018-19. Last season, however, CSKA dropped to seventh-best, so its ability to generate points will be something to watch going forward in this one.