A big showdown that could even produce a Group G champion takes place on Thursday, when Unicaja welcomes Dynamo Moscow to Malaga, Spain. Both teams share the top spot in this group with a 3-1 records, so the winner of this crucial game will take sole possession of first place going into the final week of the Top 16. In fact, Unicaja will advance to the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a victory and will mathematically clinch first place if it beats Dynamo by 7 points or more, as it will have the tie-break advantage against any possible direct opponent or even in a three-way tie involving Dynamo and Benetton. In their first Top 16 encounter, two weeks ago in Moscow, Dynamo won 86-80 in a game of wide swings on the scoreboard. The duel at point guard could be the key tactical position in this highly-anticipated game, with crafty Pepe Sanchez (6.5 ppg., 2.6 apg.) sharing the playmaking role for Unicaja with tough Carlos Cabezas (9.1 ppg., 2.2 apg.). Both players will have the mission to stop Bojan Popovic (11.7 ppg., 83.8% FT, 1.9 spg.), who ranks second on the Top 16 index rating list, and Eddie Gill (6.6 ppg., 82.5% FT). Both teams are really deep at the wings, where Unicaja has a go-to guy in Berni Rodriguez (12 ppg., 41.9% 3FG, 2.8 apg.), who had 22 points in the loss against Dynamo and is also a great defensive assett. Do-it-all swingman Jiri Welsch (10.5 ppg., 47.1% 3FG), who scored a season-high 21 points in a victory at Benetton last week, rounds out a powerful backcourt along with shooting specialists Marcus Faison (5.3 ppg.) and Costas Vasileadis (6.4 ppg.). Rodriguez will have the tough mission to guard Taquan Dean (10.8 ppg., 43.8% 3FG), while Faison and Vasileadis will go against Sergey Monya (3.6 ppg., 44.4% 3FG) or team captain Dmitry Domani (5.7 ppg., 44.4% 3FG). Dynamo runs its offense through its star frontcourt, Euroleague January MVP Lazaros Papadopoulos (15.5 ppg., 7.3 rpg.) and Top 16 Week 4 MVP Antonis Fotsis (14.7 ppg., 47.6% 3FG, 6.7 rpg.). Papadopoulos is set to have a big matchup against Daniel Santiago (11.7 ppg., 4.9 rpg.), even when Ignacio De Miguel (2.9 ppg.) is ready to help down low. Fotsis, who earned MVP-of-the-week honors in a win against Aris last week, will try to keep that momentum going against Carlos Jimenez (6.7 ppg., 4.6 rpg.), Marko Tusek (5.8 ppg.) and Florent Pietrus (3.4 ppg., 3.3 rpg.). Since big man Obinna Ekezie (6.3 ppg., 85.7% FT) is out again for Dynaymo, Yuri Vasilyev (2.9 ppg.) and Andrei Trushkin (3.9 ppg.) will need to be ready to help Papadopoulos and Fotsis. Fans can count on a dramatic game, one of those that simply cannot be seen elsewhere: Euroleague Basketball at its best!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007