Cibona hosts Prokom Trefl Sopot on Wednesday night in Zagreb, Croatia in a Group B encounter that could be a last chance for the visitors to repeat as Top 16 qualifiers Every win is crucial in this tight group where every team can still reach the Top 16. Prokom (2-6) has dropped five in a row, including a 59-81 rout at the hands of Maccabi before the holiday break. Cibona (4-4) has yet to lose at home this season, where it has held opponents to an average of 59.7 points per game. Prokom cruised to an 80-64 home win when these teams met in November behind Tomas Masiulis's 10 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Prokom's once-intimidating defense has had its problems recently, however, allowing over 80 points in each of its last three games. That came after a four-game stretch where no opponent scored more than 72. However Cibona is a low-scoring side (66.1 ppg.), whose highest-scoring game was only 77 points. Nonetheless, its defense works well, and it has been victorious in games where it has scored as few as 67 points. Point guard and Week 7 MVP Scoonie Penn (15.3 ppg., 2.7 spg.) is the catalyst of the Cibon attack, along with forwards Damir Markota (10.3 ppg.) and Bennett Davison (10.1 ppg., 6 rpg.). Markota has been outstanding despite coming off the bench. He will need to play strong against a deep and strong Prokom frontline that includes the team's star, Goran Jagodnik (15.5 ppg., 7 rpg., 2.3 spg.), Adam Wojcik (11.8 ppg.) Masiulis (6.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg.) and center Michael Andersen (7.7 ppg.). Prokom has lacked consistent backcourt scoring, with playmaker Tomas Pacesas a defensive specialist and Christian Dalmau (9.6 ppg.) and Istvan Nemeth (8.7 ppg.) suffering from up and downs. Cibona, on the contrary, has enjoyed more consistent play from guard Davor Kus (9.2 ppg.), and while reserve guard Marino Bazdaric hasn't been a factor on offense since returning from injury, he has proven to be a potent scorer throughout his career. Even though Prokom has been the Euroleague's worst free throw shooting team thus far (62.4 percent), teams have not taken full advantage as the Polish champs also draw the fewest fouls of any team (18.5). This game pits Cibona's backcourt against Prokom's frontcourt. However there are several players that can change that equation. A big game from Markota versus the veteran Jagodnik or solid play by Pacesas and Nemeth against Penn and Kus could be the keys of the game for the respective teams.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006