Anadolu Efes plays holder Olympiacos

Anadolu Efes plays holder Olympiacos

Anadolu Efes plays holder Olympiacos

Anadolu Efes’ Slovenian guard Sasha Vujacic (C) drives to the basket while being defended by Olympiacos players during the two teams’ first meeting in the Euroleague earlier this season. Anadolu Efes crushed the Greek team 98-72 at the Abdi İpekçi Arena. AA Photo

Anadolu Efes visits defending champion Olympiacos in the most intriguing battle in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague tonight.

The two teams, who are behind Zalgiris Kaunas in the Group C, will be battling to get closer to the Top 16.

Both teams are tied for second place in Group C, each with a 4-2 record, so the winner will all but mathematically get to the next round. Efes has a 5-4 road record against Olympiacos, but the defending champion won the last two showdowns against the Turkish powerhouse in front of their fans.

Efes comfortably beat 98-72 Olympiacos earlier in the season, but the Istanbul team’s coach Oktay Mahmuti believes that the Greeks are in a far better condition now.

“All the teams reach their real performance after an adaptation period,” Mahmuti told the Euroleague website. “Olympiacos caught its real shape and performance now. We -as it was in the first game- are going to Athens with the same thoughts. We will do our best to win there.”

Efes center Semih Erden echoed the coach’s sentiments.

“We have won the first game against Olympiacos in Istanbul. But we must not be mistaken by that game’s result. Olympiacos is a good team,” he said. “We have played the first game at home with the great support of our fans. This is a different game. We will play at away court. Olympiacos would like to win the game at home court but we are going to Athens to win.

Stopping Spanoulis

Efes will try to stop star guard Vassilis Spanoulis, whose leadership, passing and driving skills can make the difference in any game. Efes is likely to use Jamon Lucas and Josh Shipp as counter-forces against Spanoulis. Also on offense, former Los Angeles Lakers players Sasha Vujacic, who won last week’s Most Valuable Player award, and Jordan Farmar will be key weapons for Efes.

Both teams have deep frontcourts with many options at both ends. Olympiacos just added center Josh Powell to play alongside big men Pero Antic and Dimitrios Mavroeidis, mobile power forward Georgios Printezis and rock-solid defensive ace Kyle Hines.

Another Turkish team, Fenerbahçe Ülker, will also be on court, hoping to stop its recent poor form when it meets Union Olimpija.

Fenerbahçe slipped to fourth spot after two defeats and must beat Union Olimpija to keep its Top 16 aspirations alive.

Fenerbahçe won the previous encounter between the two teams last month, 75-81, but was pushed all the way in that game in the Slovenian capital. Fenerbahçe comes into the Game 7 contest after a buzzer-beating defeat at the hands of BC Khimki, while Olimpija ended a four game losing streak last week against Mapooro Cantu.

“Fenerbahçe has great individual players, but I have a feeling that their team isn’t working well together in this moment,” Union Olimpija coach Saso Filipovski said. “I still regret that we didn’t win the first game in Ljubljana, when we had the chance. Basically one play and our bad free throws decided the game. We lost a lot of energy in our last game with Partizan in ABA League, so I hope we will regroup until Thursday and give it out best in Turkey.”