|Lietuvos Rytas looks to bounce back from its first loss of the season when it hosts Partizan Belgrade on Thursday at he Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania. L. Rytas fell hard at Olympiacos last week, losing by 24. And it didn’t get much better during the week as a number of players returned from the trip ill. And even though star playmaker Bojan Popovic and Milko Bjelica are expected to play, they did miss practice time during the week. And forward Justas Sinica could miss the game altogether. Meanwhile Partizan aims to keep up its momentum after its first Group B win over Entente Orleanaise last week, in which point guard Aleks Maric and playmaker Bo McCalebb shined again. The duel between McCalebb and Popovic could be the battle upon which this game is hinged. Popovic’s experience and leadership have been just as important as his court vision in getting the most of L. Rytas this season. McCalebb, a Euroleague rookie, has burst onto the scene with three strong performances backed by his speed, strength and court awareness. L. Rytas’s top scorer is Marty Gecevicius, who teams with Steponas Babrauskas to give head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis two of the best three-point shooting wings in the league. The aggressive Arturas Jomantas joins them at small forward. They’ll face a Partizan lineup featuring Euroleague champ Dusan Kecman, rising star Jan Vesely and Aleksandar Rasic as three very different, but very effective wing players. In the paint, rookie center Aron Baynes and veteran big man Donatas Zavackas for a strong one-two punch, with Bjelica doing his damage off the bench. Partizan has Maric and Lawrence Roberts as its projected starters and big Slavko Vranes and young Branislav Dekic in reserve. The health of the L. Rytas lineup could be a deciding factor, since Partizan has a deeper team and a lesser showing from the hosts’ regulars could hamper its chances. However, L’ Rytas’s home-court advantage should not be taken lightly. The Lithuanian champs have won 15 of their last 18 Euroleague contests at home. Of course head coach Dusko Vujosevic’s men have been known to steal road games on some of the toughest courts in Europe. Either way, this game has the makings of a 40-minute thriller that could come down to the final shot.
REFEREES: Luigi Lamonica, Jakub Zamojski, Anna Cardus
Martynas Gecevicius has yet to miss a free throw in a Euroleague game, shooting 11 for 11 from the line in 21 career Euroleague appearances.
Gecevicius has made at least one three-pointer in six straight Euroleague games and is shooting 54.2% from downtown over that span.
Steponas Babrauskas leads the league in three-point shooting with a 63.64 % success rate (7 for 11), but is 0 for 6 on two-pointers so far this season.
Dusan Kecman has made his last 10 free throw attempts in Euroleague games.
After working on his three-point shooting over the summer, Jan Vesely has made 3 out of 4 tries this season. Last year Vesely was 1 for 18 from downtown.
Vesely is the only player in the league to foul out of all three games this season.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009