Euroleague basketball predictions included under each game.
Several big returns take place in Round 5, with a former head coach back on the same bench, a former captain visiting his old home floor, and a former leading scorer back to challenge his ex-teammates. There are also a few ties up and down the standings to be broken as teams jockey for position in a shifting table heading into the thick of the calendar. With five games on Thursday and three on Friday, competitiveness is guaranteed in Round 5.
CSKA Moscow vs. Zalgiris Kaunas
Friday tips off with a classic as resurgent CSKA (3-1) hosts scrappy Zalgiris (2-2). The hosts are 17-1 against the visitors this century, including 9-0 at home, but it was in their last meeting in Kaunas that Zalgiris broke the spell. To do so again, Kaunas will rely on the leadership of Paulius Jankunas and the wiles of Kevin Pangos to help control the pace. That’s because CSKA can run away at any moment behind super guards Sergio Rodriguez and Nando De Colo and floor-running forward Will Clyburn. Zalgiris will have to challenge collectively, with forwards Aaron White and Edgaras Ulanovas key to that effort, but Nikita Kurbanov and Cory Higgins, among others, will be ready for CSKA to see that the visitors don’t succeed. The mismatch in the paint between little big man Kyle Hines and sleek Zalgiris center Brandon Davies is another matchup to watch.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Unicaja Malaga
A pitched battle between teams that need to rise into the middle of the standings is on tap on Friday between winless Efes (0-4) and visiting Unicaja (1-3). There’s has been a healthy rivalry, with 16 games since 2000, the majority of them in the former Top 16 phase, and a 9-7 edge for Efes. The hosts need to shore up the EuroLeague’s next-to-last defense, while the visitors have the same ranking on offense. Unicaja hopes to see its top scorer, Nemanja Nedovic, return from injury and Efes to see smooth Derrick Brown play his first game this season. Kruno Simon is back on form for the hosts, who get much of their scoring inside from Bryant Dunston and Vladimir Stimac. Unicaja, dead last in three-point shooting accuracy (26.7%), will look for Ray McCallum and Sasu Salin to spark some much-needed scoring from the perimeter.
FC Barcelona Lassa vs. Olympiacos Piraeus
Round 4 ends with a classic battle of great importance to Barcelona (1-4), which needs to rebound at home against unbeaten Olympiacos (4-0). Barcelona has a three-game losing streak to snap after having looked ready for anything in the season opener at home. Thomas Huertel has emerged as the top assist-maker in the league, with 7.5 per game, but Barcelona has been unable to translate its fifth-ranked offense (82.3 ppg) into victories. Olympiacos, which has yet to play with team leader Vassilis Spanoulis, has not missed a beat thanks to the league’s second-best defense (67.8 oppg.) and the great inside play of Georgios Printezis and Nikola Milutinov. They will have to deal with Barcelona’s top scorer, Kevin Seraphin, and defensive ace Adam Hanga, but Olympiacos is almost sure to play its patented physical game on the road. It’s up to Barcelona to match that and hold serve on its own court.
Crvena Zvezda vs. Brose Bamberg
Zvezda (2-2) puts its perfect home record on the line on Thursday against streaking Bamberg (2-2) as these two teams break their share of a six-way tie in the middle of the standings on Thursday. It will be a homecoming for former Zvezda captain Luka Mitrovic, but even with instant-impact newcomer Dorell Wright in the frontcourt with him, Bamberg will have its hands full against with Milko Bjelica and Taylor Rochestie, ranked fourth and fifth in performance index rating, not to mention a Belgrade crowd that might be the best sixth man on the planet.
Fenerbahce vs. Valencia
The champs from Fenerbahce (2-2) return home on Thursday to receive red-hot Valencia Basket (3-1), winners of their last three games, including two in blowout fashion. It’s their first meeting since 2011, and Valencia owns a 1-3 record against Fenerbahce before that and brings the EuroLeague’s best defense (65.5 oppg.) to the table. Led by Luigi Datome, Fenerbahce boasts the third-best three-point accuracy of all teams. Erick Green has been unstoppable for Valencia, and his battle with Brad Wanamaker and Kostas Sloukas should be fascinating.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz vs. Panathinaikos
Baskonia (0-4) looks for a restart under a new head coach on Thursday, while Panathinaikos (2-2) tries to turn around its early problem with blowout losses on the road. Pedro Martinez returns to Baskonia’s bench, replacing Pablo Prigioni, more than a decade after he made his EuroLeague debut there. His first tasks are to revive the league’s worst offense (66.8 ppg.) and to restore the team’s home-court swagger. Panathinaikos comes off a big, last-second win over Fenerbahce in which Nikos Pappas was the hero, while Nick Calathes is leading the team in scoring, assists, steals and two-point accuracy.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv vs. AX Olimpia Milan
Two historic clubs face off with a valuable victory between them as Maccabi (2-2) hosts Milan (1-3) on Thursday. If healthy, Milan shooter Andrew Goudelock will return to the floor where he led Maccabi in scoring last season. He will find some deadly scorers in his place, like Pierre Jackson and Norris Cole, who will need defending, too. Milan brings the EuroLeague’s third-best offense and best at three-point shooting, led by Dairis Bertans, Vladimir Micov and Amath M’Baye, all of whom connect from deep at a higher rate than any Maccabi player. Just as interesting will be the big-man battle between shot-blockers Artsiom Parakhouski and Alex Tyus for the hosts against Arturas Gudaitis and Kaleb Tarczewski for Milan.
Real Madrid vs. Khimki Moscow
Thursday ends with Real Madrid putting its unbeaten record on the line against high-powered visitors Khimki Moscow Region (3-1). All eyes will be on the battle at guard between wunderkind Luka Doncic for the hosts and do-it-all veteran Alexey Shved for the visitors. They rank first and third, respectively, among EuroLeague scorers. Closer to the basket, Gustavo Ayon is having a bang-up start, leading Madrid in rebounds, assists and blocks, while Thomas Robinson has emerged for Khimki as a force to be reckoned with. Madrid has won every game this season by double digits, so Khimki will likely need defenders like Charles Jenkins and rebounders like Malcolm Thomas at their best to challenge in the Spanish capital.
Basketball Tips: livetipster.com