|Fenerbahce Ulker returns home after a tough loss in the Euroleague Opening Game to take on Alba Berlin on Thursday night at Istanbul’s Abdi Ipekci Arena. Fener came up short 80-70 at Tau Ceramica last week, but hopes that the home crowd will push team to victory this week. Berlin surprised many with a 68-63 come-from-behind win over Lottomatica Roma, led by Emmanuel McElroy’s 17 points and 9 rebounds. Both sides are team-oriented squads with a number of players that could rise to the occasion when needed. The hosts’ biggest issues are off the court with a number of major contributors sidelined with injuries. One of them that could return this week to add some serious scoring punch is Gordan Giricek. He would step into a backcourt led by little playmaker Marques Green, who is the main creator for Devin Smith, Damir Kaan Mrsic and Hakan Demirel. Berlin counters with Julius Jenkins, Stefen Hamann, Rashad Wright and Casey Jacobsen at guard plus McElroy at small forward. Adam Chubb, Ansu Sesay and newcomer Dragisa Drobnjak are the main interior threats, though sixth man Aleksandar Nadjfeji can help at either forward spot. Veteran rebounding champ Mirsad Turkcan leads the Fener interior corps along with Emir Preldzic, Oguz Savas, Gasper Vidmar and the always-hustling Rasim Basak. The depth and versatility of both teams’ rosters leaves much to the technical minds of the teams’ respective head coaches, Bogdan Tanjevic of Fenerbahce Ulker and Berlin’s Luka Pavicevic. Berlin managed to win last week despite a dismal outside shooting effort – 3 for 17 from downtown. Pavicevic knows that his team must improve on that to have a realistic shot to win on the road. Fener will enjoy facing a team that lacks a true shot-blocker, especially when Chubb is on the bench, leaving Savas and Vidmar a significant height advantage in the paint. In fact Chubb’s ability to stay out of foul trouble and remain effective on the glass could be the key for the visitors, who also must avoid falling behind early, since they won’t have the passionate backing of their fans like last week. Fener on the other hand can draw energy from its fans and look to control the glass and to run as often as possible to wear Berlin down. If Green can set the pace and the hosts can get baskets in transition, it could be a long trip for Berlin. But as McElroy and co. just showed last week, don’t count them out too early.
- Shooting guard Gordan Giricek returns to Euroleague action after six seasons away. He carries with him a streak of nine straight Euroleague games with at least 20 points scored, starting in January 2002.
- Point guard Marques Green is in a three-way tie for the most assists in the league after Week 1, during which he dished 7 in his Euroleague debut at Tau Ceramica.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008