Fenerbahçe hosts Real Madrid in rematch of last season's semifinal

Fenerbahçe's Jan Vesely shined last week with 15 points aganst Crvena Zvezda.
Fenerbahçe's Jan Vesely shined last week with 15 points aganst Crvena Zvezda.

The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season hits the halfway mark with Round 15, which opens with a doozy as reigning champion Fenerbahçe Doğuş plays Spanish giant Real Madrid today. A rematch of last season's semifinal provides a festive treat as Madrid (8-6) looks for its fourth consecutive victory with a trip to reigning champ Fenerbahçe (9-5).

Madrid has well and truly recovered from its November slump by toughening up on defense and allowing just 75, 72 and 66 points in its last three wins. But that resistance will be tested by a Fenerbahçe offense that ranks among the most efficient in the league, ranking third in true shooting percentage (51.2 percent).

Madrid is no slouch either. Los Blancos ranks second in the league in performance index rating of over 98.9 per game.

In another match, red-hot Zalgiris (9-5) will aim to keep the good times rolling by claiming a fifth consecutive victory, and potentially climbing as high as third in the standings, by overcoming defensive misers Olympiacos (11-3).

The Greek side has allowed fewer points than any other team (70.8 per game). Olympiacos overcame the absence of four injured big men, Nikola Milutinov, Georgios Printezis, Dimitrios Agravanis, and Kim Tillie to win twice last week, but will have to make sure to guard the perimeter against a Zalgiris team that boasts the best three-point conversion rate in the competition (42.4 percent).

Elsewhere, the recent renaissance enjoyed by Unicaja (6-8) faces a stern test with a trip to face a Maccabi (8-6) team that has won three straight at home, culminating in last week's convincing victory over Fenerbahçe.

These are two of the worst free throw shooting teams in the competition, with Unicaja ranked 14th (68.5 percent) and Maccabi 15th (67.6 percent). The visiting team could use that to its advantage by showing aggressive resistance inside against Maccabi, which loves to attack the paint. The Tel Aviv side has scored far fewer three-pointers (5.8 per game) than any other team.

Finally, Valencia (3-11) will aim to climb off the bottom of the standings by ending a 10-game losing streak with the visit of confident Panathinaikos (10-4) today.

Panathinaikos has won eight of its last nine to claim sole ownership of the third place. Despite the drastic disparity in results, there is little to choose between the teams in nearly every category.

The Greeks will surely look to use its excellent defense, which has allowed just 72, 76 and 63 points in its last three games, to prevent Valencia from gaining some much-needed confidence.

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