A classic Euroleague powerhouse hosts a newcomer looking for a second road win to step up among the Top 16 contenders from Group A when Efes Pilsen welcomes RheinEnergie to Istanbul on Wednesday. Efes Pilsen (4-4) comes off a critical come-from-behind road win against Prokom Trefl Sopot last week, but is still in a must-win situation after having lost two previous home games and playing in Istanbul only twice more this regular season. RheinEnergie (2-6) is currently on a three-game losing streak and, what's worse, plays five of its six remaining games on the road. In their first meeting last November, Efes beat RheinEnergie 68-82 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Big man Janar Talts (2.6 rpg.), who did not play against Dynamo Moscow last week, is ready to face Efes. Meanwhile, Efes counts on newcomer Laron Profit, who already made his Euroleague debut against Prokom last week. Game rhythm will likely be the biggest key on Wednesday. RheinEnergie opts for an up-tempo game while Efes likes to slow down its offense, trying to get its frontcourt involved or finding good options for Drew Nicholas (13 ppg.), Horace Jenkins (12.2 ppg.) and Cenk Akyol (8.8 ppg, 44.8% 3FG). The fact RheinEnergie has the most turnovers (147) in the Euroleague while Efes has the least (88) says it all. Jenkins will try his defensive skills against Demond Mallet (10.3 ppg., 2.4 apg.), the heart and soul of the German League champs. Immanuel McElroy (8.3 ppg.) will have the tough mission to stop Akyol while Marcus Faison (16.4 ppg., 91.4% FT) will be ready to provide instant offense against Nicholas, last year's Alphonso Ford scoring trophy winner. Efes highlights its frontcourt with athletic Marcus Haislip (12.6 ppg., 6.5 rpg.), physical big man Ermal Kuqo (9.1 ppg.), low-post master Niksa Prkacin (7.5ppg.) and rebounding ace Kerem Gonlum (6.1 ppg., 4.6 rpg.). They will fight under the boards against Marcin Gortat (10.4 ppg., 62% 2FG) and Guido Grunheid (2.6 ppg.). Ronnie Burrell (11.9 ppg., 6.3 rpg.) will have a strength test against Haislip, while Aleksandar Nadjfeji (9 ppg., 62.5% 2FG) will try to make the most out of his speed and versatility. Sharp shooter Mlajden Sljivancanin (4.4 ppg.) of RheinEnergie and playmaker Cuneyt Erden (7.3 ppg., 43.3% 3FG), who went scoreless against Prokom, may well be key factors, too.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006