As the Turkish Airlines Euroleague passes the halfway mark and enters the new year, one matchup is sure to turn heads. FC Barcelona Lassa takes on Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on January 11th in a Round 18 matchup. Amidst a coaching change and the season starting to take shape, this game ought to make a splash in the Euroleague, and Euroleague betting is at a premium.
FC Barcelona Lassa vs. Panathinaikos OPAP Athens Euroleague Game Preview
These two teams will meet for the second time this season during Round 18 of the Euroleague regular season. In Round 8 on November 21st, Panathinaikos defeated Barcelona 76-70. This, of course, was prior to the Rick Pitino signing and former coach Xavi Pascual led to the team to victory. The game was highly contested but had some low percentages in shooting. Barcelona shot 3/15 and Panathinaikos didn’t fare much better with 7/24 from beyond the arc. After a 7-7 tie game in the first period, Barcelona fell behind and could not quite make it back, never regaining the lead.
Panathinaikos has one player in the top of two statistical categories, Nick Calathes. He’s averaging just over 8 assists per game, leading the league, and 1.6 steals per game, 2nd in the league. Calathes is a decent scorer averaging 11.2 points per game but takes a few shots to get him there. He’s currently shooting 45.2% inside the arc and 24.3% outside it, which isn’t spectacular, yet he is their leading scorer along with Keith Langford. The Greens are also home to a member of a famous basketball family, the Antetokuonmpo’s. Thanasis Antetokuonmpo is in his 2nd season with the Greens after a short stint in the NBA, is the older brother of Giannis Antetokuonmpo. This team looks to get back to the playoffs where they are no strangers with a total of five Euroleague championships since the turn of the century.
Barcelona struggles to find consistency this season. Once netting five wins in a row, but shortly after dropping four in a row. One reason to highlight is the lack of scoring on the team. Only one player, Thomas Heurtel, is averaging double digits in scoring, 10.4 per game. No other statistical category has a player with double digits either. Heurtel also struggles in his shot as he is averaging right at 49% from the field and 42.1% from three. This league isn’t centered around prolific shooting like the NBA is, but percentages are a telling statistic when it comes to wins and losses. Barcelona looks to return to the playoffs this season after finishing outside the cutoff the last two seasons.
Since the last meeting, one fairly large change has been made. Former University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was named the head coach of Panathinaikos on December 26th. Most recently the former NCAA National Champion became intertwined in an FBI investigated recruiting scandal that sent him packing from Louisville. Pitino won his debut game with the Greens but fell in his second game against fellow American head coach, David Blatt of Greek rival team, Olympiacos Piraeus. Barcelona faces a strong contender on the basketball court, but also faces the media with Pitino. His aggressive defensive mind not only shows in the full-court press he loved in the NCAA, but also in front of the camera when asked about, anything.
This game may be a turning point for Barcelona to continue a possible winning streak and head into the top five. Currently they have outscored their opponents by 20 points total over the season, but they are a whopping 48 points behind the next team on the list. Similarly, Panathinaikos is in the middle of the pack as well but have been outscored by their opponents by 20 this season. Defense will obviously play a large factor in this matchup. An area that Pitino excels in. Barcelona coach Svetislav Pesic will look to outsmart the aggressive defense looking to capitalize on his seasoned experience to take home a victory.
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