Unics Kazan hosts Montepaschi Siena on Tuesday in the first game their ULEB Cup quarterfinals series in a battle of great offense against great defense. The opponent may be a good omen for Siena, which last played the Russian side in the 2002 Saporta Cup quarterfinals on the way to its last European title. In that series, Unics won the first leg at home 73-70 behind 31 points from Martin Muursepp, but Montepaschi prevailed 68-58 in the return leg thanks to 16 points and 17 rebounds from Roberto Chiacig. Kazan, which finished the regular season in second place in Group D, reached the quarterfinals by crushing Hemofarm Vrsac by a total of 48 aggregate points. Montepaschi, the Group C winner, advanced by sweeping PAOK Thessaloniki. Unics is the best offensive team in the ULEB Cup averaging 90 points per game, with a complete arsenal that includes outstanding shooters Saulius Stombergas (15.8 ppg., 61% 3FG), Jarrod Stevenson (13.8 ppg., 51.7% 3FG), Sergey Chikalkin (9.4 ppg., 44.4% 3FG) and recent addition, point guard Jerry McCullough. Under the boards Ksistof Lavrinovic (11.8 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 2.2 bpg.), Dusko Savanovic (8.4 ppg.) and Yegor Mescheryakov (9.2 ppg.) guarantee consistency and efficiency. Montepaschi, the third-best defense in the ULEB Cup, is bolstered by a deep bench. Its main task will be to stop Unics's from running and controlling the pace of the match. Lonnie Baxter (10.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg.) and Benjamin Eze (5 ppg., 5.9 rpg.) are the main weapons inside, while four players produce on the perimeter: Romain Sato (15 ppg.), Joe Forte (14.2 ppg.), Rimas Kaukenas (12.8 ppg.) and Terrell McIntyre (10.6 ppg.). Their duel with the Kazan shooters could produce fireworks, and the clash in the paint could be equally entertaining. The mark of 85 points scored at home has meant victory so far this season for Unics, while Montepaschi, which has won 5 of its 6 away games this season, always kept the home team below 76 when it won. This game features two completely different philosophies, putting extra pressure on the playmakers to help dictate their style of play and give their side the advantage heading into the final leg next week in Italy.
Monday, February 26, 2007