Efes at Crvena Zvezda
Time: 7:00 pm CET
Efes, who owns the best record in the EuroLeague, travels to Serbia for a matchup with Red Star, who is attempting to halt a three-game slide and remain in playoff contention. Efes, powered by Shane Larkin, scores nearly 10 more points per game than they allow and is seemingly a team without any singular weakness. Larkin, in his second year with the squad, is having a season for the ages. He has been named MVP in four straight Rounds and is leading the league in scoring. Moreover, he's doing so with unparalleled efficiency. Larkin, making 54.2 percent of his field goals, 51.9 percent of his threes and 89.3 percent of his free-throws attempts, is putting the ball in the hole at a level rarely seen from a backcourt player. In addition to having the best player in the league, Efes is incredibly deep. Vasilije Micic (ankle), Krunoslav Simon, Tibor Pleiss, Rodrigue Beaubois and Sertac Sanli are all averaging at least 8.8 points per game and have provided plenty of support for Larkin. The opponents, Crvena Zvezda, boast the second-best defense in the league, holding opponents to a meager 76.9 points per game. Unfortunately for the team, they're unable to match their defensive intensity on the offensive side. Recently-added Kevin Punter and Vladimir Stimac have helped reverse that trend a bit with averages of 15.0 and 12.2 points per game, respectively. They have helped out Red Star's stellar backcourt duo of Lorenzo Brown and Billy Baron, who are both averaging double figures on the season. In the last matchup between these teams, Crvena Zvezda's defense could not slow Efes, and the first-place team came away with a 85-70 victory. Red Star will have the advantage of playing at home Thursday, but taking down a team that has lost just once since Oct. 31 will be no easy task.
Bryant Dunston - OUT - Arm
1/19 2:23 AM IST - Head coach Ergin Ataman said Friday that Dunston (arms) could return to action after the Turkish Basketball Cup in mid-February, according to Hizli Hucum. Dunston's injury has sidelined him since early November, and based on Ataman's comments it will keep him out at least another month. Dunston could have a chance to return in Efes' Round 25 matchup with Bayern Munich on Feb. 21, but it remains to be seen if he will have enough practice time built up by then. Tibor Pleiss and Sertac Sanli will continue sharing the minutes at the center position until Dunston is back in action.
Vasilije Micic - GTD - Ankle
1/30 6:10 PM IST - Micic (ankle) could return to action Friday against Crvena Zvezda, according to eurohoops.net. Micic was expected to return to action in Round 21 but ultimately did not take the court. He finds himself in a similar position heading into Round 22, but with an extra week to rest and recover, his chances of playing are seemingly better.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Derrick Brown - OUT - Coach's Decision
12/26 8:14 AM IST - Brown is no longer part of Crvenza Zvezda's EuroLeague roster, according to euroleague.net. The team has not announced anything in regards to Brown's status, according to Mozzart Sport, but with him being replaced on the roster by Kevin Punter, he will not see action in Round 16 and may not play for Crvenza Zvezda again.
Filip Covic - OUT - Leg
1/31 2:21 AM IST - Covic (leg) will not play Friday against Efes, according to sportklub.rs. Covic will miss another game as he works his way back from a leg injury. It's not clear how close he is to playing, but he will have less recovery time than usual before Red Star's next EuroLeague game with two Rounds on the schedule next week.
Mouhammad Faye - OUT - Coach's Decision
12/26 8:15 AM IST - Faye is no longer part of Crvenza Zvezda's EuroLeague roster, according to euroleague.net. The team has not made an announcement about Faye's status, according to Mozzart Sport, but with him ceding his roster spot to Vladimir Stimac, he will not see action in Round 16 and may not play for Crvenza Zvezda again.
Marko Jagodic-Kuridza - OUT - Achilles
1/31 2:19 AM IST - Jagodic-Kuridza (Achilles) will not play Friday against Efes, according to sportklub.rs. Jagodic-Kuridza is at the back end of the 10-to-15 days he was expected to be sidelined, but he is not ready to play just yet. He should have a chance to return to action next Wednesday in the first of two EuroLeague games Red Star will play next week.
Branko Lazic - GTD - Illness
1/31 2:17 AM IST - Lazic, who missed last week's game with an illness, is on track to return to action Friday against Efes, according to sportklub.rs. It's not certain that Lazic will play Friday, but he was not listed among the players who will be held out and was only dealing with an illness in the first place, so he should be back on the court in Round 22.
Anadolu Efes Probable Starters
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade Probable Starters
Shane Larkin, IST - Simply put, Larkin has been the best player in the league this season. He's contributing a league-leading 21.7 points and contributing nearly everywhere else, adding 3.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.4 threes and 1.2 steals per game.
Lorenzo Brown, RED - Red Star's best overall player, Brown is averaging 14.1 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. He's reached double figures in all but four games this year and scored 18 points against Efes in Round 5.
Vasilije Micic, IST - Micic, who's battling an ankle injury, could be pivotal if he plays. He dominated Red Star last time these teams put up in Round 5, scoring 26 points and distributing five assists.
Kevin Punter, RED - Punter has reached double digits in four of five games since joining Red Star. Overall, he's posting a team-leading 15.0 points and 2.4 assists per game.
Dream 11 Team
Grand League Combination
Larkin, Brown, Micic, Moerman
Small League Combination
Larkin, Brown, Micic, Punter