The Group D matchup for all the marbles takes place in Spain on Tuesday when Real Madrid hosts Unics Kazan. The top two teams in the group have both qualified for the ULEB Cup elimination rounds and now are eying first place and with it home-court advantage in the next stages. Kazan (6-2) currently leads over Madrid (5-3), but Real can rocket to the top of the group with a win by at least 7, which would makeup for its 100-94 overtime loss in a classic encounter earlier in the season in Kazan. The ULEB Cup's top shooter, Saulius Stombergas erupted for 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists to lead Kazan to victory that night. Madrid has won four straight since then and will be out to correct that result. Guards Charles Smith (12.4 ppg.) and Louis Bullock (12 ppg.) pack most of Madrid's scoring punch from the backcourt, but it is perhaps forward Axel Hervelle (10.5 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) who is the most consistent on the team. Meanwhile, Stombergas (18.4 ppg.) has proven to be virtually unstoppable with the ball, having made 36-of-45 two pointers (80%) and 21-of-28 from beyond the arc (75%). However he is far from the only scoring threat on the team that leads the ULEB Cup in scoring with 93.8 points per game. The team's twin brothers and twin towers, Ksysof (13.8 ppg., 7.4 rpg., 2.6 bpg.) and Darjus (14.8 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 2 bpg.) Lavrinovic, are second and third, respectively, in blocked shots, while swingman Jarod Stevenson (13.9 ppg.) and point guard Mateen Cleaves (10.1 ppg., 3.1 apg.) round out a formidable lineup. This game features numerous potentially thrilling matchups, with Hervelle set to try and stop Stombergas, Real big men Vennson Hamilton (5 rpg., 1 bpg.), Felipe Reyes (7.6 ppg., 6.4 rpg.) and Ratko Varda (8.5 ppg.) set to go against the Lavrinovic twins and Raul Lopez and Kerem Tunceri looking to use their playmaking skills to keep Real at Kazan's pace. Anything can happen in this game, where the viewers can see ULEB Cup basketball at its best.
Monday, January 08, 2007