Zalgiris will be in search of its first win of the season when it welcomes Real Madrid in what will once again be a packed Zalgirio Arena on Thursday. Zalgiris will not only try to win its first game of the season but to also beat Real on its home floor for the first time since 2014 in what has been a pretty one-sided rivalry between them. Real is undefeated, with two wins by a total of 5 points. The visitors will try to open the season with a 3-0 record for the third year in a row.
Real has registered wins on its last six trips to Kaunas, including a 79-90 triumph last season behind 16 points from Anthony Randolph. The streak is no surprise considering that Real has won 18 of 20 meetings between them this century. Zalgiris can take confidence from having snapped Real's 11-game winning streak last spring with an 86-93 road victory on the last day of the 2018-19 regular season to secure a playoff berth.
Real and Zalgiris feature two of the best and longest-lasting big men in the EuroLeague history. Real's Felipe Reyes is the career leader in games played with 345, and the career rebounding king with 1,782 total rebounds and 695 offensive rebounds. He needs just 2 more points to become third player to reach 3,000 for his career. On the other side, it is Paulius Jankunas, whose 259 career starts are the most ever in the EuroLeague. He is a close second behind Reyes with 1,735 career rebounds, and third all-time with 500 offensive boards.
Sharpshooters Arturas Milaknis of Zalgiris and Jaycee Carroll of Real might not be primary options on offense for either team, but their long-distance shooting can do wonders for their respective teams. Milaknis, who has made at least one three-pointer in 17 straight games, just played a team-high 33 minutes, 37 seconds in Round 2 at Milan, which speaks to his increased role on the team. Carroll celebrated his first appearance of the season last week by making 4 of 7 three-pointers, including a game-winner with 2.4 seconds to go. He comes into this game with sky-high confidence.
Keys to victory: Zalgiris
With its 15.0 turnovers per game, Zalgiris will clearly have to take better care of the ball against a team such as Real which uses those giveaways to run transition for easy baskets. Zalgiris will aim to continue creating second-chance opportunities, as it leads the league with 16.0 offensive rebounds per game. Those offensive rebounds, coupled with fewer turnovers, would allow Zalgiris to control and slow the tempo of the game to its liking.
Keys to victory: Real
Having come out victorious of the two close calls at home, Real hits the road for the first time this EuroLeague season hoping to continue what has worked so far. Real has been moving and sharing the ball well, ranking third with 20.5 assists per game, and shooting threes with 41.8% accuracy. Real has also used its impressive experience to finish the games strong, and that is something every coach would like to see his teams do.