There could be offensive fireworks in the German capital when ALBA welcomes CSKA on Friday. The two teams enter this contest as the EuroLeague's scoring co-leaders, each averaging 91.3 points. ALBA also dishes 24.0 assists, and has scored at least 84 points in each of its three games so far, but will probably need an offensive tool it has as it now faces a perennial offensive juggernaut in the undefeated reigning champions CSKA.
In their four previous meetings this century, CSKA is a perfect 4-0 and has beaten ALBA by an average margin of 19.5 points. They last played each other in November of 2014, when CSKA thrashed ALBA 95-66, which is the largest of four aforementioned wins. Interestingly, CSKA has three men still on the team from that time – head coach Dimitris Itoudis, and players Andrey Vorontsevich and Kyle Hines. Meanwhile, Niels Giffey is the only player still on ALBA's roster from that game.
Itoudis loves Berlin
German capital and its Mercedes-Benz Arena have been pretty special for CSKA coach Itoudis. In 2009, he won the final of six EuroLeague titles as an assistant coach with Panathinaikos Athens. In October of 2014, he made his head-coaching debut there, leading CSKA to a 68-84 win over ALBA. Then, at the 2016 Final Four, Itoudis guided CSKA to the EuroLeague title, his first as a head coach.
ALBA's Peyton Siva is settling down in a role of a EuroLeague point guard, which long awaited for him. Siva averages 11.0 points and 5.0 assists, and as he is coming along from a pre-season injury, his minutes will increase and numbers will only get better. What makes Siva a player to watch is his aggressive perimeter defense, and who is better to test those against than Mike James, EuroLeague top scorer from a season ago who is having a hot start with CSKA, posting 18.3 points and 5.0 assists in three victories.
Keys to victory: ALBA
Even though it is facing a high-scoring offense like CSKA's, there no other way for ALBA than to stay true to itself. ALBA needs to keep moving the ball, keep running in transition, and keep taking the open looks it is getting. That's what has made ALBA so dangerous, and even though CSKA is a team able to punish even the slightest mistakes, there should be no stepping away from the style of play that got ALBA where it is today.
Keys to victory: CSKA
It is not often that CSKA faces a team that is able to outscore them in a shootout, but this will be one of those occasions. So, CSKA will need to continue to protect the ball, as it ranks second best with just 93 turnovers per game, and continue to do the job on the offensive glass where CSKA is pulling down 14.0 rebounds, third best in the league.