The top two teams in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in alphabetical order will clash on Thursday in the German capital when ALBA hosts Efes. ALBA, which has won four of its last five road games, will try to capture a valuable victory at home to remain in the playoff hunt; ALBA enters the round two wins behind eighth-placed Khimki Moscow Region in the standings. ALBA has lost its last three home games. Efes, which comes to Berlin without the league’s top performer this season, Shane Larkin, has won 10 in a row.
When they last met…
Efes needed overtime before disposing of ALBA 106-105 in Round 2. The teams traded leads throughout the game, with ALBA hitting a club-record 14 three-point shots, but the backcourt duo of Shane Larkin and Vaislije Micic guided Efes to victory. Larkin finished with 26 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting along with 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Micic had 23 points and career highs of 13 assists and 4 steals. For ALBA, Rokas Giedraitis netted 21 points and Luke Sikma had 15 plus 8 rebounds.
Luke Sikma is ALBA's silent assassin as he puts of strong numbers across the board to fuel ALBA by taking advantage of whatever the opposing defense gives him, whether that is allowing him to set up teammates from the post, score or crash the glass. Efes's Chris Singleton is the right type of player to neutralize Sikma as a team-first big man with the skills to impact the game at both ends. They may not put up the big numbers, but these two will surely have something big to say about the outcome.
Keys to victory: ALBA
It figures to be a high-scoring game with ALBA ranked third in scoring (85.1 ppg.) and Efes second (87.1 ppg.). Even though ALBA allows by far the most points in the league (89.0 ppg.), it has also managed to win many games when allowing opponents to score in the high 80s and more. Against Efes, the key will be not to slow down the pace, but to stop the opponents from getting easy shots and converting at their league-best rates (57.1% on two-pointers and 42.0% on threes). If Efes must work harder – or decides to settle for quicker, less open shots in a fast-paced game, ALBA will be in a promising spot.
Keys to victory: Efes
On paper, this game seems to be right up Efes's alley, but the team will still need to get maximum production from guards Vasilije Micic, Rodrigue Beaubois and Kruno Simon to make up for the absence of Larkin. That trio has the experience and shot-making ability to handle the role and if Efes does not fall out of rhythm with its go-to scoring injured, it can add another road win to its impressive record.