|Olympiacos Piraeus will try to do its part and hope for some help from a rival as it aims to finish atop the Group A standings when the regular season ends on Thursday. The Reds host Le Mans at the Peace and Friendship Stadium near Athens, Greece, needing a win and for Maccabi to beat Unicaja by less than 26 points to clinch the top spot in the group. But head coach Panagiotis Giannakis’s men could slip to third place with a loss. Meanwhile Le Mans will end its season regardless of the result. The visitors will nevertheless hunt for their maiden road win after picking up their first win of the season last week. Dewarick Spencer netted 25 points and Brian Chase had 21 to lead Le Mans to a 92-88 win over Air Avellino. It was the club’s second-best scoring effort of the season to a 93-98 loss against Olympiacos in November. Lynn Greer peppered the nets for a season-high 26 points in that game for the Reds. Olympiacos will surely be happy to return home after losing its last two road games, including a 96-83 decision at Maccabi last week. The story of this game could be how Le Mans responds to the depth of Olympiacos, which averages nearly 10 points more per game than the visitors. Although Le Mans features plenty of scoring options, how fresh the likes of Spencer, Chase or David Bluthenthal will be at the end of the game could have a great impact on their chances of an upset. The Reds will try to overpower Le Mans by going with Greer, Yotam Halperin, Milos Teodosic and Theo Papaloukas at guard, where Le Mans responds with Chase, Spencer and teenager Antione Diot. Even with forward Josh Childress questionable this week, Olympiacos has Georgios Printezis to step up at small forward, while Nikola Vujcic, Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Zoran Erceg and Bourousis fill in the paint. Le Mans counters with Bluthenthal and Malaye Ndoye at forward and Alain Koffi, Joao Paulo Batista and Pape Badiane inside. Olympiacos is the only team that needs this game, which coupled with its home-court advantage makes it the favorite. Nevertheless, the ability to play without consequences could help Le Mans turn in a special performance that could lead to a surprise win. All signs point to a high-scoring and fun to watch encounter that should produce plenty of highlights.
- Center Nikola Vujcic is the only current Olympiacos player that has played in the French League. He helped Asvel Basket win the French national championship in the 2001-02 season.
- The Reds met Le Mans for the first time in the 1978-79 season. They lost on the road, but they came up big to win at the old “Papastrateio” court and to reach the European Champions Cup final six for the first time in their history.
- Big man Ioannis Bourousis has now scored in double figures in eight consecutive games this season.
- Guard Theo Papaloukas has recorded at least 5 assists in eight consecutive Euroleague games and at least 4 assists in 10 straight.
- David Bluthenthal was a teammate of current Olympiacos players Nikola Vujic and Yotam Halperin at Maccabi Tel Aviv. Bluthenthal played three seasons in Tel Aviv – all with Vujcic and two alongside Halperin. They were all teammates on Maccabi’s 2004 Euroleague championship side and on last season’s runner-up side.
- Bluthethal’s best offensive rebounding game in the Euroleague came against Olympiacos in the 2006-07 season. Playing at the time for Fortitudo Bologna, Bluthenthal grabbed 5 offensive boards.
- Guard Dee Spencer achieved his Euroleague high in three-pointers against Olympiacos last season. Spencer, then with Virtus Bologna, hit 6 triples in Athens in a loss last November. He averaged 18.5 points on 50% three-point shooting against the Reds last season. Spencer drilled 4 threes and scored 19 against Olympiacos earlier this season.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009