The last Top 16 qualification from Group A will be squarely on the line Thursday when Prokom Trefl hosts Climamio Bologna in Sopot, Poland for the right to continue playing this Euroleague season. Prokom (5-8) will claim fifth place in Group A if it wins, or if it losses by fewer than 14 points – the amount by which it defeated Climamio (4-9) by in Italy last month. Prokom will automatically earn fifth as well if Le Mans upsets Tau Ceramica, as it would win the three-way tie between Prokom, Climamio and Le Mans. Climamio's only hope of claiming a ticket to the next stage is to win by at least 15 and for Tau to beat Le Mans. Prokom cruised to a 77-91 win when these sides met last month in Bologna, where reserve forward Adam Wojcik exploded for 20 points. Prokom has struggled lately, losing three of its last four games, but those losses all came against the top three teams in the group. Meanwhile, Climamio won back-to-back games before coming up short against Efes Pilsen last week. Climamio arrives in Poland extremely short-handed, missing both Euroleague's leading rebounder, James Thomas (9.8 rpg), out for three weeks with a broken rib, and the team's top scorer, Marco Belinelli (12.8 ppg.), who suffered an Achilles' tendon problem earlier in the week. The absence of Thomas will be a factor against a big Prokom frontline that boasts Huseyin Besok (10 ppg., 4.6 rpg.), Michael Andersen, Tomas Masiulis and Wojcik. For rebounds, Climamio will likely rely on Vasco Evitmov (4.3 rpg.), who could get help from 45-year-old Dan Gay. Forwards David Bluthenthal (15.9 ppg., 50% 3FG, 4.3 rpg.) and Stefano Mancinelli (9.7 ppg., 2.5 spg.) will also be counted on to help on the bords. In the backcourt, the visitors will hope that veteran playmaker Tyus Edney (12.3 ppg., 4 apg.) gets additional help from Daniele Cavaliero (3.5 ppg.) and Alain Digbeu (4.3 ppg.). They all must deal with the Prokom guard rotation of Christian Dalmau (11.3 ppg.), Justin Hamilton, Rashid Atkins, Tomas Pacesas and sharpshooting Donatas Slanina (10.6 ppg.).Small forward Jasmin Hukic could play a major role in forcing mismatches on Climamio. Prokom will do its best to wear down the thinner Climamio rotation, especially inside. Experience shouldn't be much of an issue, as both teams feature players who've stared down these do-or-die situations in the past and came out winners. The pivotal plays could be at center, where a strong game by Evitmov or quality minutes by Gay could be what Climamio needs to get over the top. If Besok and Andersen are able to capitalize there, the hosts will likely celebrate passage through to the Top 16.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007