|Euroleague runner-up Maccabi Electra resumes its run to return to the Final Four when it hosts Alba Berlin in the teams’ Group F opener on Thursday at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. Both teams will have new players in uniform after Maccabi inked Dee Brown and Charles Gaines this week, while Alba added big man Kenny Adelke. Maccabi went 4-1 over the second half of the season, picking up momentum heading into the Top 16. Meanwhile Berlin picked up a crucial Week 9 win at DKV Joventut that helped propel the team into the Top 16. The game features a contrast in styles as Maccabi likes to run and use its scoring prowess at every chance, while Berlin plays a slower, more deliberate style. An interesting matchup will take place at power forward, where Maccabi’s Lior Eliyahu, the December MVP, will face Ansu Sesay, one of the few players in the competition that can match him for speed and size. Eliyahu teams with D’Or Fischer, Yaniv Green and now Gaines in making up Maccabi’s frontcourt, which will go against Berlin’s combination of Adam Chubb, Sesay, Adelke and sixth man Aleksandar Nadjfeji. In the backcourt, Berlin turns to Steffen Hamann, Julius Jenkins and Rashad Wright to share ball-handling duties, while Casey Jacobsen and Immanuel McElroy bring firepower from the wings. Carlos Arroyo is Maccabi’s star playmaker, starting alongside Marcus Brown at shooting guard with Dee Brown now available to spell them. Omri Casspi, Tre Simmons and Tal Burstein are head coach Pini Gershon’s options at small forward. Berlin has yet to score 80 points in any game this season, a feat Maccabi has accomplished six times – four of them in the last five games. Even though Berlin has a number of offensive-minded players that have the ability to run and score with Maccabi, none of them have been in a position to do so over 40 minutes. How the visitors respond to that challenge could determine how the game plays out. Nevertheless, Maccabi remains the favorite to win at home, where it has gone 44-6 over its last 50 Euroleague home games.
- Guard Marcus Brown and forward Lior Eliyahu are both on a streak of six straight games with double-figures in points.
- Guard Tal Burstein is closing in on 1,000 points for his Euroleague Basketball career. He enters this week’s game against Alba Berlin with 989 points in 134 career games. He also needs just 2 more three-pointers to reach 100 for his Euroleague career.
- Big man D’Or Fischer has recorded 10 rebounds in each of his last three Euroleague appearances.
- The last game between Maccabi and Alba took place in December 2001, when Maccabi won in Berlin 64-65. Derrick Sharp and Tal Burstein are the only players on either team who played in that game.
- Newly signed big man Kenny Adelke could make his Euroleague debut on Thursday at Maccabi Electra.
- Adelke spent his first season as a professional in Israel playing for Hapoel Galil Elyon, where he was a teammate of current Maccabi player Tre Simmons.
- Alba has just a single win in its entire history over Maccabi. It took place in its debut Euroleague season, more than 12 years ago, with a 70-65 win in Berlin.
- Guard Immanuel McElroy has scored in double-digits in the last five games.
- Alba had the fewest offensive rebounds in the Euroleague among the teams that qualified for the Top 16.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009