Lottomatica Roma will look to become the first team to beat Panathinaikos this season when the two teams meet in the Italian capital on Thursday. Roma has been in excellent form as of late, winning its last two games including an 88-81 overtime decision over Maccabi Tel Aviv last week to improve to 4-6 and take a share of fourth place in Group B. Both David Hawkins and Mire Chatman scored season-highs of 23 and 19 points, respectively, to lead Lottomatica. Panathinaikos is the only remaining undefeated team in the Euroleague and only the second team this decade to start a season 10-0. The Greens have already clinched a spot in the Top 16 and can wrap up first place in the group as well with a win in Italy. The Greek champions were 87-71 winners when these teams met in November in Athens, as Mike Batiste posted 16 points and 10 rebounds. Dejan Bodiroga, who led Panathinaikos to a pair of Euroleague titles and three Greek championships during his four seasons with the club, finished with a game-high 17. This time Bodiroga hopes to get the better of his former teammates in more than just the head-to-head statistics. Panathinaikos will be without its leading scorer and rebounder, Batiste (16.1 ppg., 7.1 rpg.), who will miss his second straight game with a calf injury. Dejan Tomasevic started in his place last week and could do so again, while Demos Dikoudis, Roberts Javtokas and Kostas Tsartsaris could all see increased time. They will target Roma centers Loukas Mavrokefalides (8.4 ppg., 6 rpg.) and Ognjen Askrabic (8.3 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 2.3 spg.). Both teams have plenty of backcourt depth. Chatman (9.5 ppg., 2.3 spg.) and Hawkins (12.3 ppg., 2.9 spg.) start for Roma, with shooter Alex Righetii (9.1 ppg.) and Jacopo Giachetti bringing energy off the bench. Dimitrios Diamantidis (8.1 ppg., 4 apg., 2.7 spg.), the only player to start all 10 games for Panathinaikos this season, teams with Sani Becirovic (9.2 ppg.), Nikos Hatzivrettas (9.5 ppg.), Tony Delk (11 ppg.), Ramunas Siskauskas and Milos Vujanic in the Panathinaikos backcourt. Lottomatica's claim to fame is that it leads the league in steals (15.9 spg.). It will be interesting to see if Chatman and Hawkins have what it takes to pressure Diamantidis and co. and to force the needed turnovers to send the Greens their first defeat.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007