Five games in ten days

Second half of tEuroLeague season kicks off at Olympiakos Piraeus

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A week ago, the Bayern basketball team finished the first round of the EuroLeague with the best record of any German team to date. No one expected the Munich team to win eleven of its 17 games. But that's in the past, the top division is a relentless marathon with 34 gamedays and the current standings are especially crowded in the middle. The second half of the season kicks off next Friday evening against Bayern's second-place opponent Olympiakos Piraeus, the Greek EuroLeague champions from 1997, 2012 and 2013 who currently boast an 8-8 record.

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The difficulty of the task is evidenced by this fact that although the FCBB was successful in the first matchup against Olympiakos after a great fight 74-68, they have never won a game in Greece in five and a half EuroLeague seasons. At least they will have James Gist with them this time in the port city as a tour guide as the new US center played seven years for archrival Panathinaikos.

A lot of work for Jalen Reynolds, the third-best EuroLeague rebounder
The game at Olympiakos kicks off at 20:00 on Friday evening, with MagentaSport broadcasting live as usual. Less than 48 hours after the road game in the "Peace and Friendship Stadium", the recently twice victorious BBL newcomer Niners Chemnitz will come to the Audi Dome for the first time (Sunday, 15:00). The Munich team has five games ahead of them in the next ten days, including the home game on January 17th against Hamburg. 

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"Everyone knows that Olympiakos is always a EuroLeague contender, especially since they have largely kept the core of their squad this year as well," says head coach Andrea Trinchieri about the hosts. He added: "The game in Piraeus is the start of the second half of the season. Experience shows that all teams get better in the second half of the season, they improve. So the same must be true for us, and that's why we will have to improve significantly in Olympiakos, both on offense and defense."

Olympiakos got back on track recently after a strong start (6-3) followed by a dip in form. The 105-88 road win at Khimki Moscow saw a club-record 16 three-pointers at the highest rate in 20 years. Even the week before, in a tight 84-77 win in Istanbul against co-favorites Fenerbahce, who are also in comeback mode, coach Georgios Bartzokas' men hit 15 threes at a near 50 percent rate.

While Bayern unfortunately paid for their hopelessly overcrowded December schedule with injuries - Vladimir Lucic, Zan Mark Sisko and Robin Amaize were all absent from Sunday's BBL defeat in Berlin - Olympiakos remains in a special situation: after its self-imposed exit from the top national league as a result of disputes with local rival Panathinaikos Athens (which just fired coach Georgios Vorovas) the Hellenic club is once again only in the EuroLeague this season.

Sloukas puts up nearly six assists per game
"We have to present ourselves differently after the game in Berlin, with such an experienced team as Olympiakos, it certainly won't be easy," said captain Nihad Djedovic. "We're missing players, but we don't want any excuses and definitely want to build on our good first half in the EuroLeague; we'll give everything for that again this time."

In addition to shadowing three-point candidates such as returnee Kostas Sloukas (10.6 ppg, 5.8 apg), Sasha Vezenkov (8.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg) or even forward-all-rounder Georgios Printzesis (8.4 ppg) and general one-on-one defense, it should be crucial for Bayern to establish superiority on the boards. As the fifth best team in this category with 33.5 rebounds, they catch almost three more rebounds on average than the hosts. FCBB center Jalen Reynolds alone grabs 6.9 rebounds per game, third best among all players.

Piraeus' deep squad still features the very solid U.S. guard Shaquielle McKissic (9.9 ppg), plus his compatriots Hassan Martin (9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Aaron Harrison (7.8 ppg), as well as the two experienced international players Kostas Papanikolaou (5.7 ppg) and Vassilis Spanoulis; the 38-year-old EuroLeague legend (4355 points in 340 games) still gets a good 17 minutes of action.

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