|Top 16 action starts in Group H with a big showdown, as Cibona hosts Montepaschi Siena in Zagreb, Croatia on Wednesday. Cibona already showed its power with regular season home wins against Euroleague powerhouses Maccabi Electra and Olympiacos. Meanwhile, Montepaschi finished regular season Group B in second place with an 8-2 record, but its two losses came on the road. There is some good news from Montepaschi, as swingman Rimantas Kaukenas is back in action and ready to face Cibona. Kaukenas leads a battery of good players at both wing spots, featuring small forward Romain Sato, combo guard Marco Carrareto and scoring ace Henry Domercant. Kaukenas will test his scoring skills against recently signed swingman Alan Anderson. Sato faces a tough matchup against a strong defender in Marin Rozic, while Domercant pits his shooting abilities against combo guard Davor Kus, a key player for coach Velimir Perasovic. Two of the best point guards in the competition are ready to battle each other. Earl Calloway of Cibona, one of the most pleasant surprises in the competition this season, faces a key matchup against All-Euroleague playmaker Terrell McIntyre of Montepaschi. Even though Morris Finley stays sidelined, Montepaschi has Arriel McDonald, who is ready to offer experience and clutch shots. Vedran Princ will be ready to help Cibona as its backup point guard. Cibona will be concerned with stopping Ksistof Lavrinovic, a nightmare matchup for any team due to his unique combination of shooting range, post skills, quickness and athleticism. The hosts count on Niksa Prkacin and Jared Homan to stop him down low. Shaun Stonerook is Montepaschi's silent leader, a big man able to do a little bit of everything - and do it well. Meanwhile, Benjamin Eze offers size and strength in the paint against Prkacin. Cibona also has good shooters like Vedran Vukusic and Luksa Andric, with enough talent to put Stonerook and Lavrinovic into trouble. And Bruno Sundov offers size inside for the home team. Cibona must play the way it has at home recently: strong defense, outstanding ball circulation and an unstoppable Calloway. Meanhwhile Montepaschi Siena has taken the extra pass to a brand new level in European club basketball, with lineups in which any player can strike from downtown. Expect both teams to give everything they have knowing that a win to start the Top 16 could trigger a strong run.
- Guard Earl Calloway has scored in double figures in nine straight games, averaging 15.9 points per game over that span.
- Guard Davor Kus is averaging more than twice as many points per game at home this season (16.4 ppg.) as on the road (8 ppg.). He is shooting 41.7% from downtown at home compared to 21% on the road.
- Center Niksa Prkacin is on pace for the best shooting season of his lengthy Euroleague career. Prkacin has made 37 of 62 two-point shots (59.6%) so far, which is slightly more than his 59.1% for Efes Pilsen in the 2006-07 season.
- All-Euroleague playmaker Terrell McIntyre has recorded at least 1 steal in every game this season and finished the regular season tied for the league lead with 2.2 steals per game. He has also made at least 1 three-pointer in seven straight appearances.
- Montepaschi finished the regular season as the Euroleague leader in steals with 12.4 per game this season and had three players in the competition’s top 10 in that category: McIntyre was tied for first with 2.2 steals per game, Shaun Stonerook was fifth with 2.1 and Romain Sato eighth at 1.9 per game.
- Guard Henry Domercant enters the Top 16 needing just 22 more points to reach 1,000 for his Euroleague career.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009