|Armani Jeans Milano hosts Efes Pilsen in an important early season battle between two teams with some history between them. Milano and Efes met in the 1996 Korac Cup finals, which Efes won by a single point after tow games for its first European trophy. But the focus on Wednesday will be a lot more modern as both teams eagerly hunt for victory. Milano comes into the game in rough shape as injuries have depleted a roster that already struggled last week on the road against the reigning champs. CSKA handed Milano a 90-64 loss last week and now Milano could take the floor without two of its most important players. Guard Massimo Bulleri is sidelined with a finger injury and big man Pape Sow is questionable and suffering a foot injury in the Italian League. Moreover, small forward Luca Vitali remains out with a knee problem. Meanwhile Efes opened its Euroleague season with a narrow 61-60 home win over Partizan Belgrade. Efes is also banged up. Center Mario Kasun has a wrist injury and is out, while former Milano shooter Preston Shumpert is a question mark with an ankle injury. Kasun’s absence hurt the club last week as it was outrebounded 20-43. The bright news came in the form of Milos Vujanic, who paced the offense with 17 points for his highest scoring Euroleague game in three-and-a-half years. Vujanic will join forces with Charles Smith, Bootsy Thornton and Ender Arslan to challenge the Milano backcourt of David Hawkins, Jobey Thomas, Yohann Sangare and sharpshooter Marco Mordente. Hawkins is considered one of the top defensive guards in the league, but he will need help from the rest of the team to lock down all of Efes’s scoring threats. At small forward, Efes will hope to have Shumpert back, but can otherwise turn to Cenk Akyol. In the paint Milano will need reserves Mason Rocca, Mindaugas Katelynas and Joey Beard to step up along Mike Hall if Sow is out. Meanwhile Efes will employ Kaya Peker, Kerem Gonlum and Michalis Kakiouzis inside. The many injury questions that surround this game certainly create headaches for both coaching staffs. One thing working in everone’s favor is the multitude of veteran players who can step in where needed. A big game from any one of the role players for either teams could make a huge difference in the game. Two matchups to keep an eye on could be at point guard, where Sangare will look to prove his skills against Vujanic, and at power forward will Hall will try to use his athleticism o handle Peker. If the hosts can control those matchups, they will have a distinct advantage as the game progresses.
Armani Jeans Milano
- Guard Massimo Bulleri needs just 4 points to reach 1,000 for his Euroleague Basketball career. He would become the 43rd player in the competition to reach that plateau.
- After going 3 for 3 from behind the arc last week, guard Marco Mordente moved up to third place on the all-time three-point shooting percentage list with a 47.12% success rate. He is the active leader in that category as well.
- Efes Pilsen defeated Armani Jeans Milano in the finals of the 1996 Korac Cup. Efes won the first leg at home by 8 and lost the second in Italy by only 7 to list the cup. Efes has won all four meetings with Milano since then.
- Big man Michail Kakiouzis enters his team’s Week 2 game tied with former teammate David Andersen for 10th place on the all-time Euroleague Basketball offensive rebounding charts. They each have 237 for their careers. Dejan Tomasevic with 243 and Marcus Goree with 244 are ninth and eighth all-time, respectively.
- Forward Preston Shumpert played his first Euroleague season with his Week 2 opponent, Armani Jeans Milano, in the 2005-06 season. Guard Massimo Bulleri is the only player still with the club from that season. Shumpert played for Benetton Treviso the following season, where he was a teammate of current Milano guard Marco Mordente.
- Guard Milos Vujanic, who led the Euroleague in scoring in the 2002-03 season with 25.8 points per game, had his best scoring output in over three-and-a-half years last week when he scored 17 against his former team, Partizan Belgrade. Vujanic, who missed large chunks of time with a knee injury, scored 18 against Zalgiris Kaunas in March 2005.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008