|Although the standings say they are in last and first place, respectively, expect Union Olimpija hosting Maccabi Electra in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Thursday to be a most interesting battle. Maccabi (4-1) has control of Group C thanks to potent offense, great rebounding and an ability to turn on jets to take over some games. Olimpija (1-4) is coming off just its first win of the season, but that command performance against Lottomatica Roma - despite missing the Euroleague's leading scorer due to injury - was the kind of victory that can ignite a team. This week, Olimpija will have that top scorer, three-point ace Matt Walsh, back in uniform. He forms a unique tandem with veteran Sani Becirovic, author of a great game against his former team Roma last week. With those two on the ball for Olimpija, offense and tempo should not be problems for the hosts. Defense, however, remains a question, as Olimpija gives up plenty of points while Maccabi is among the Euroleague leaders in producing them. The perimeter quartet of Alan Anderson, Andrew Wisniewski, Chuck Eidson and Doron Perkins makes Maccabi continually lethal no matter which of them steps on the floor. On the inside, Maciej Lampe, Stephane Lasme, D'or Fischer and David Bluthenthal give head coach Pini Gershon a range of options - both offensively and defensively - that is hard to match. To try to do so, Olimpija will turn to one key inside big man, veteran Uros Slokar, to lead several younger ones, like Gasper Vidmar, Edin Bavcic and Vladimir Golubovic. Slokar, though a top-five Euroleague two-point shooter, percentage-wise, might serve best to start the game as a passer, considering Maccabi's shot-blocking talents and the presence of his team’s scorers, Walsh and Becirovic, on the wing. Olimpija head coach Jure Zdovc will definitely want to slow the game, draw fouls and get back early on defense. How Olimpija plans to handle the often unstoppable Anderson or match up with Eidson, who is strong and versatile, will be keys for the hosts. Maccabi will likely try to shut down Olimpija’s shooters on the perimeter, but then must worry about Becirovic and Saso Ozbolt driving. Becirovic is a master at drawing fouls. Zdovc will have his young big men under orders to make defensive rebounds a priority so that his guards can manage the tempo. If Maccabi gets good shots, however, the visitors have enough firepower that only another big night by Walsh might be enough for Olimpija to challenge another group leader. Both teams cuaght each other earlier than most when Maccabi won their season opener almost six weeks ago. The rematch will be a measure of how far each has come since.
REFEREES: Daniel Hierrezuelo, Emilio Perez Pizarro, Boris Shulga
Matt Walsh leads the league this season with 24.5 points per game and is tied for the lead with 15 three-pointers made.
Sani Becirovic scored a season-high 24 points last week against Lottomatica Roma.
Uros Slokar is last in the league among qualified players in three-point shooting will none made in 13 tries.
Gasper Vidmar is last in the league in free throw shooting among qualified players with just 3 made in 14 tries for 21.4 %.
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv
Maccabi leads the league in steals (10.8 spg.) and blocked shots (5 bpg.) per game.
Alan Anderson has made 11 consecutive free throws over his past two games.
Andrew Wisniewski scored a season-high 20 points last week against Maroussi.
Maciej Lampe scored a Euroleague career-high 19 points last week against Maroussi.
Stephane Lasme has blocked a shot in five straight games.
D’Or Fischer leads the league in blocked shots per minute (0.13 blocks per minute).
Wednesday, December 02, 2009