|Partizan Belgrade will look to build on last week’s impressive win when it hosts Armani Jeans Milano at the Pionir Arena in the Serbian capital. A win for the hosts could go a long way towards establishing the paths these teams are on as the race for tickets to the Top 16 from Group D starts to take shape. Partizan has impressed this season, losing by a single point at Efes Pilsen in Week 1 and stunning Real Madrid last week. Head coach Dusko Vujosevic’s men have produced at both ends of the floor, with newcomer Stephane Lasme and giant center Slavko Vranes doing the dirty work in the paint, Aleksandar Rasic and Milenko Tepic outside and forward Novica Velickovic helping out everywhere. Meanwhile Milano has started the season with back-to-back losses, first at defending champion CSKA at last week at home against Efes. With another tough road game at Madrid next week, head coach Piero Bucchi’s charges must earn a tough road win to avoid a 0-4 start and will try to accomplish that goal in Belgrade. Making matters even more difficult is the team’s injury list, which includes three of the club’s most important players. Big man Pape Sow is out with a foot problem, while guard Massimo Bulleri and Luca Vitali have recovered from their respective injuries, but are not yet in gameshape. Accordingly, Milano will turn to swingmen David Hawkins, Marco Mordente and Jobey Thomas, who have carried the team’s offense in recent weeks, while looking to playmaker Yohann Sangare, forward Mike Hall and big man Mason Rocca to raise their production. Sangare particularly will need to get the attack in order, as Milano’s 15 assists this season are tied for the fewest in the Euroleague. The visitors’ lack of size makes the battle inside against the 2.29-meter Vranes as well as active rebounders Lasme, Velickovic and Zarko Rakocevic a crucial one for Milano. Partizan leads the league with 17.5 offensive rebounds per game. Hall’s athleticism and all-around skills could be crucial against Partizan’s forward tandem, but Rocca and Joey Beard must also help out. Aside from Mordente, Milano is shooting just 21.1% from beyond the arc, but if traditionally strong marksmen like Thomas, Sangare or Hall heat up, Milano does have the potential ring up an important win on the road. Nevertheless, Partizan showed last week, as well as last season when the club went 8-3 at home, that it is always favored at Pionir Arena.
Armani Jeans Milano
- Partizan and Milano will meet for the first time since the 1992 Euroleague Final Four. Partizan, led by a young Predrag Danilovic and Sasha Djordjevic bested a Milan squad with Daryl Dawkins and Johnny Rogers 82-75 in the semifinals en route to the club’s only Euroleague title.
- Center Slavko Vranes blocked 4 shots in last week’s home win over Real Madrid, giving him 45 for his career and drawing the 2.29-meter man within striking distance of 50. He will become one of only 10 players in Euroleague Basketball history to appear in at least 40 games and average more than one block per game. Vranes ranks second on the all-time list in blocks per minute with 0.10 per minute.
- Partizan is one of only three teams to have two players in the top 20 in rebounding this season. Stephane Lasme’s 9 rebounds per game tie him for third in the Euroleague, while Novica Velickovic is tied for 12th with 7 per game. Those two are ranked among the top six offensive rebounders this season with 4.5 for Lasme and 4 for Velickovic.
- Guard David Hawkins has posted impressive individual numbers in four career performances against Partizan. He has scored in double figures in all four games and averaged 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.3 steals. He has recorded a career-high 6 steals twice and has his only career multi-blocked shot game (2) against the club.
- Armani Jeans is shooting 86.4% from the free-throw line through two games this season. No team has ever shot above 83% from the line in a Euroleague Basketball season.
- If Luca Vitali plays this week, he will have seen action with three different teams in his first five Euroleague game. Vitaly played two games for Virtus Bologna in the 2002-03 season and two more with Montepaschi in the 2003-04 season.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008