Unicaja will try to keep the good times in Group C going on Thursday when it hosts Pau-Orthez in Malaga, Spain. Unicaja (4-2) is still unbeaten at home this season and is currently on a three-game winning streak that has featured victories at home over Montepaschi and Panathinaikos. Meanwhile, Pau (1-5) will try to break its five-game Euroleague losing streak. It will be special game for Unicaja small forward Stephane Risacher (10.6 ppg., 2.6 rpg.), who played for Pau in the 1999-00 season, and especially for power forward Florent Pietrus (2.8 ppg., 3 rpg.), who started his professional career in Pau before moving to Malaga. Pau has based its game on its froncourt, as Brooks Sales (5.6 ppg., 6.3 rpg.) is ready to join forces after a recent injury with T.J. Lux (9.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and rebounding ace Thierry Rupert (4 rpg.). However, they will be without injured veteran Thierry Gadou (2.8 ppg.) and must go against one of the most powerful frontcourts in the competition. Unicaja has not missed its own injured big man, Sandro Nicevic, too much because his replacement, Daniel Santiago (11.6 ppg., 4.3 rpg.), and team leader Jorge Garbajosa (16.3 ppg., 7.3 rpg., 17 of 42 triples, 1.3 bpg.) have been solid, while Pietrus comes off the bench as an intense defender. Garbajosa, the third-best scorer in the Euroleague, has shown himself to be a prime-time defender, too, ranking eighth in rebounds and fifth in blocks. Santiago comes off a big game in Belgrade, where he had 16 points and 6 rebounds to help Unicaja beat Partizan. The point guard battle will also be interesting, as Pau has one of the best playmakers around in Lonnie Cooper (11.1 ppg, 4 apg), who gets some help off the bench from up-and-coming youngster Xane D'Almeida (2.3 ppg, 2 apg.) and experienced veteran Fred Fauthoux (2.4 ppg.). Unicaja has its own star point guard duo in homegrown talent Carlos Cabezas (8.5 ppg, 1.8 apg.) and pass-first playmaker Pepe Sanchez (4.6 rpg., 3.4 apg.), whose has been nursing an injury but is due to play. One of the main goals for Pau in this game will be slowing Marcus Brown (13.5 ppg., 2.1 apg), one of the best shooting guards in the competition. Both Cooper and athletic swingman Artur Drozdov (6 ppg., 4 rpg.) will have a tough mission to slow of Brown and Walter Herrmann (8.7 ppg.), who gets better as the season goes on. Unicaja is the heavy favorite, but Pau needs to start winning right away to keep its Top 16 chances alive.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005