DOUBLE-HEADER weeks in the Euroleague test resolve and focus. But they also examine depth.
Two games in three days might seem like an easy stroll compared with the relentless darting around the NBA.
But it is where the monied elite truly separate themselves from the middle pack with the supposed Big Four of Fenerbahce, Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos going 20-24 in contests in the three twin-testers so far.
Partly a symptom of simply being better than the rest, of course.
— Eurohoops.net (@Eurohoopsnet) January 8, 2019
But Fenerbahce’s perfect record in such weeks ended on Tuesday when they sustained an 84-78 defeat at Khimki Moscow, only a second reverse of the regular season for the current leaders.
The Turks were held to an atypical 26.9% from three-point range, something which should revert to normality when they bid for a bounce back at home to Zalgiris Kaunas on Thursday.
The Lithuanians are 1-2 on the second part of double-headers and are 4.25 to pull off an upset in Istanbul.
Fener was, by the law of averages, due one off-night following 12 consecutive wins, a streak of which six were decided by four points or fewer.
It speaks to the kind of calm under pressure that keeps them as outright favourites for a second Euroleague title of this decade.
Žalgiris Kaunas – aggressive stunts and help in late clock/isolation/mismatch defensive situations: pic.twitter.com/DfwZLpbgbV
— Andrew Cutler (@andrewrcutler) January 6, 2019
It does suggest Zalgiris, who took a third straight reverse by Efes Istanbul on Tuesday, might be able to stay within reach in the same manner as when they were only vanquished 82-75 in the previous meeting between these two this term. The visitors are a tempting 1.91 at +8.5.
What Fenerbahce can do – normally – is score consistently, averaging 88.75 on their own floor. And with so many options to choose from, it’s hard to see their strength in numbers not out-lasting their guests from Kaunas in the end.
Best bet: Go over 165.5 total points in Fenerbahce – Zalgiris
Since Christmas, FC Barcelona have come good – finally – winning three straight in the Euroleague with their defence particularly impressive.
The Catalans have an opportunity to go for four on Wednesday in the first part of their Round 17/18 double when they visit Olimpia Milano.
But they’ll need to put up a wall once again. The Italians set a multitude of club scoring records, including highest points in a game and also a first half, in destroying Buducnost 111-94 last week.
That was atypical, however. Milano is averaging 87.5 points per in scoring, exactly ten more than Barca, but is also conceding a horrific 86.2. When these sides played on November 23, Barcelona gave Milan its biggest loss of the season, 90-80, after dominating the middle quarters by a score of 50-29.