Partizan hosts Lottomatica Roma on Thursday at Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia, in a Group B clash with plenty of potential implications for the race to the Top 16. Partizan (3-4) is tied for the fifth and final spot that grants automatic qualification to the Top 16, while Lottomatica (2-5), with one fewer victory, is out to gain ground. Partizan is coming off back-to-back defeats. Last week the team slumped to a 66-58 loss at Unicaja in which twin towers Predrag Drobnjak and Kosta Perovic were held to season-lows of 6 and 2 points, respectively. Lottomatica lost at Cibona 91-84 in overtime despite a 27-point performance by Dejan Bodiroga. Lottomatica held on for a 65-60 home win when these teams met in October, as Bodiroga led the way with 14 points. Drobnjak paced Partizan with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. The game will feature an interesting reunion as Bodiroga returns to play in Belgrade, where he is a hero, to face former national teammate Drobnjak, with whom he won a world championship. With Perovic (11 ppg., 7.9 rpg., 1.9 bpg.), who is second in the league with 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, leading the way, Partizan tops the league with 12.3 offensive boards and is second with 36.3 total rebounds per game. Partizan does not allow easy baskets either, as it is second in fouls committed (26.7). Lottomatica leads the league with 16.1 steals per game and its halfcourt style also sees it foul early and often (26.3). Surprisingly, the teams are among the poorest in two-point shooting with Lottomatica (43.0%) second-to-last and Partizan (44.0%) third-to-last. Drobnjak (15.9 ppg., 7 rpg.), Perovic and reserve Nikola Pekovic lead Partizan inside, and they will be crucial to this game, as Lottomatica center Ognjen Askrabic is questionable again with injury, leaving Loukas Mavrokefalides (6.9 ppg., 5.9 rpg.) as the team's only true center. Partizan forward Luka Bogdanovic (7.4 ppg.) will play a key defensive role against Bodiroga (15.9 ppg., 3 apg.) and an equally important matchup will be at point guard, where Vonteego Cummings (12.9 ppg., 3.3 apg.) will try to steer his team past Mire Chatman (8.3 ppg., 2.3 spg.) and Lottomatica. The game should be a careful, tactical encounter, with the veterans Drobnjak and Bodiroga playing the most important roles. However it could be players like Lottomatica's sharp-shooting reserve Alex Righetti (10.1 ppg.) or Partizan's struggling swingman Uros Tripkovic that fly under the radar to make the difference.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006