|Two teams in desperate need of a win will clash on Thursday when Zalgiris Kaumas hosts Asseco Prokom Sopot. The Lithuanian champs are in the midst of their worst start to a Euroleague season ever – winless through seven games. Zalgiris has dropped 11 in a row dating back to last season. Meanwhile Prokom has dropped four in a row to fall to 2-5 and is in danger of losing its lead in the race for a ticket to the Top 16. The Polish champs have not won since beating Zalgiris 65-60 last month as Dan Ewing drilled 5 three-pointers en route to 19 points. Ewing has totaled 5 triples in the last four games combined, shooting 19.2% from downtown over that span. The guard matchup will be at center stage again this time as Prokom, coached by former Olympic medallist playmaker Tomas Pacesas, leans heavily on the trio of Ewing, David Logan and Aleksej Nesovic. Zalgiris on the other hand has split from its starting point guard, Willie Deane, leaving more responsibility on the shoulders of its young backcourt featuring Zygimantas Janivicius, Sarunas Vasilauskas and Mantas Kalnietis, who is coming off a career-best performance. Small forward Dainius Salenga will be called upon to help out on the perimeter as well. Head coach Gintaras Krapikas has a strong frontcourt that carries the team, led by the tandem of Loren Woods and Paulius Jankunas. Jonas “The Bull” Maciulis compliments them at small forward, while Tadas Klimavicius brings energy off the bench. Prokom features Ronnie Burrell and Koko Archibona at the forward spots, while Adam Hrycaniuk and veteran Pat Burke man the center position. The first few minutes could play an important role in the battle inside, as Prokom generally starts the rookie Hrycaniuk before bringing in Burke. How well he can stand up to Woods will be a factor that influences both teams’ substitution patterns. This game will surely be a true battle of wills as neither team can afford to lose. The keys may well rest with some unlikely heroes. If Kalnietis can come up with another big game, this time against Prokom’s stars, he could fuel the hosts to the win. And if Hrycaniuk can hold his own against the Zalgiris frontline, Prokom’s guards will have a chance to control the game and score a big win for the club.
- Zalgiris is off to its worst ever start to a Euroleague season. The club has lost 11 in a row dating back to last season. Zalgiris’s last Euroleague win came in the Top 16 last season against Maccabi Tel Aviv.
- Forward Paulius Jankunas needs just 3 more rebounds to reach 500 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Guard Mantas Kalnietis is coming off the best individual performance of his career with 20 points and 4 steals – both Euroleague career highs – last week at Montepaschi.
- Forward Tomas Masiulis returns to face his former team this week. Masiulis spent six seasons with Prokom, in which he won five Polish championships and two Polish Cups. He also played in 65 Euroleague games over four campaigns with the club.
- The club’s Polish League game over the weekend was postponed because several of Prokom’s players and coaching staff were battling the flu.
- Aleksej Nesovic started at point guard in place of Dan Ewing for the first time last week. It was the first time this season that Prokom did not use a starting five of David Logan, Ewing, Koko Archibong, Ronnie Burrell and Adam Hrycaniuk.
- Center Adam Hrycaniuk has started all seven Euroleague games so far this season, but only averages eight-and-a-half minutes per game. Pat Burke comes off the bench to spell him for 22 minutes per game.
- Prokom has lost its last eight Euroleague road games dating back to November of last season.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008