Pau-Orthez will try to advance to the Top 16 for the first time since 2004 when it faces end-of-the-table Zalgiris Kaunas on Wednesday at 19:45 CET. Pau (6-7) joins a three-way tie for the fourth place in Group B and will go directly to the Top 16 if it beats Zalgiris. With a victory, Pau can finish anywhere between fourth and sixth place, the latter if Eldo Napoli (6-7) and Aris TT Bank (6-7) win their respective games. The important thing for Pau is that seven victories is worth the Top 16 regardless of where it finishes, because no sixth-place team in another group can reach that total. Oddly enough, Pau can finish as high as fourth with a loss, too. Indeed, regardless of its own result, Pau will advance to the Top 16 if Benetton Treviso (7-6) beats Napoli. Zalgiris (2-11), meanwhile, has run out of chances to advance, but is on a high after breaking its 10-game losing streak with a home win over Aris last week. Zalgiris has missed playmaker Marko Popovic (15.1 ppg., 4.9 apg.) in the last six games and he is not expected to play against Pau-Orthez. Without Popovic in action, Mantas Kalnietis (4.3 ppg.) and Vidas Ginevicius (3.3 ppg.) are sharing the point guard duties, trying to find shooters Marcelinho Machado (7.6 ppg.) and Kirk Penney (7.5 ppg., 46.2% 3FG) at both wings. The late addition of combo guard DeJuan Collins (11 points last week) have a new dimension to the Lithuanian powerhouse. Zalgiris will have a tough test trying to contain Aaron Miles (9 ppg., 4 apg.), one of the best pass-first point guards in the competition. Meanwhile, Melvins Sanders (11.3 ppg., 70% 3FG), C.C. Harrison (8.4 ppg.) and Cedric Ferchaud (4.4 ppg.) will test their shooting skills against Penney and Machado. Zalgiris has its own x-factor in Jonas Maciulis (13 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), but Pau will try to answer with explosive forward Michael Bauer (9.5 ppg., 1.5 bpg.), who change a game with his defense and intensity. Pau runs its offense through the starting frontcourt due of Michael Wright (15.5 ppg., 4.8 rpg.) and Britton Johnsen (12.4 ppg., 63.8% 2FG). Wright provides low-post know-how while Johnsen adds range and versatility. Wright will go against legendary center Tanoka Beard (14.3 ppg., 9.7 rpg.), while Johnsen and Ian Mahinmi (4.1 ppg., 3 rpg.) will have an interesting matchup against Paulius Jankunas (9.9 ppg., 7.3 rpg.) and Hanno Mottola (11.5 ppg., 54.5% 3FG), who can fill up the basket if given half a chance. Pau is the favourite but it also has all the pressure, so expect Zalgiris to fight hard in its last Euroleague game of the season.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007