|A direct battle over their share of first place in Group D takes place Wednesday when Real Madrid welcomes Khimki Moscow Region for what promises to be an emotional night at Palacio Vistalegre in the Spanish capital. Former Madrid coach and current Spanish national team boss Sergio Scariolo returns to face his former team, as does playmaker Raul Lopez, who played for Madrid last season and is recovered from a small injury. Moreover, the game falls one day before the 20th anniversary of the death of Fernando Martin, a Madrid superstar and one of the greatest Spanish players ever, in a car accident at age 27 on December 3, 1989. Lopez is set to share point guard duties with Carlos Cabezas, who is in great shape of late, against Pablo Prigioni and Sergio Llull, a natural-born mismatch due to his quickness and athleticism. Madrid will be most concerned about stopping Week 5 co-MVP Keith Langford, who can not only score at will, but dished 9 assists last week. At small forward, Kelly McCarty not only brings a wealth of experience to Khimki's tough task, but a specific good fortune against Madrid, as he was MVP of the 2005 ULEB Cup Final, won by Hapoel Jerusalem over the Spanish powerhouse. Vitaly Fridzon and Petr Gubanov offer intensity and deep range off the guests' bench. Langford's shooting skills will be matched against those of Louis Bullock, Madrid's veteran ace on the perimeter. Meanwhile, Sergi Vidal seems the right man to try to stop McCarty due to his experience and defensive skills. Madrid is very deep at both wings, with scoring machine Rimantas Kaukenas and do-it-all swingman Travis Hansen ready to help in many ways. Khimki will be concerned with slowing power forward Novica Velickovic, who is in great shape recently. Velickovic will see most minutes at power forward, with big men Darjus Lavrinovic and Jorge Garbajosa opening the court as shooting threats, too. Madrid brought back Felipe Reyes and Tomas Van den Spiegel, but both players need to gain rhythm to see extended playing time on the court. Lavrinovic has the tough mission to guard Timofey Mozgov, one of the best young centers in Europe due to his power and quick hands. Meanwhile, Van den Spiegel may see extended playing time against Robertas Javtokas due to his defensive skills. Velickovic has a key matchup against Paulius Jankunas, a terrific offensive rebounder that will try to get the 2008-09 Euroleague Rising Star into foul trouble. Madrid will try to play uptempo and make it a high-scoring game, using good ball circulation to generate open shots for everybody. Khimki must run its offense through Langford and McCarty, as well as trying to prevent Madrid from running the break. Expect drama, emotions and a top-class game at Palacio Vistalegre on Wednesday.
REFEREES: Carl Jungebrand, Sreten Radovic, Jakub Zamojski
Head coach Ettore Messina coached Khimki reserves Nikita Shabalkin and Vladimir Dyachok during the 2005-06 season at CSKA Moscow.
Jorge Garbajosa played for Khimki last season, helping the club reach the Eurocup title game. He was a teammate there of current Khimki players Vitaly Fridzon, Timofey Mozgov, Kelly McCarty and Nikita Shabalkin, among others.
Louis Bullock and Khimki guard Carlos Cabezas were teammates at Unicaja for two-and-a-half seasons between 2002 and 2004.
Bullock needs just 2 more assists to reach 20th place on the Euroleague’s career assists charts. He currently has 278 assists in 124 career games.
Bullock needs just 1 more steal to reach 20th place on the Euroleague’s career steals charts. He currently has 154 steals.
Bullock has made 15 free throws without a miss this season and 21 in a row dating back to last season.
Rimas Kaukenas has scored in double figures in each of his last 11 Euroleague appearances.
Darjus Lavrinovic moved into the top 20 on the Euroelague’s career shot-blocking charts last week. He has blocked 73 shots in 41 games over his career.
Pablo Prigioni joined Theo Papaloukas of Olympiacos and Gianluca Basile of Regal FC Barcelona as the only two players to reach 250 steals for their Euroleague career last week.
Jorge Garbajosa needs 6 more points to crack the top 20 on the Euroleague’s career scoring charts. Garbajosa currently has 1,408 points in 110 games.
Garbajosa needs just 3 more steals to reach 200 for his Euroleague career. Garbajosa is currently ranked sixth on the Euroleague career steals list.
Garbajosa needs 3 more blocked shots to move into the Euroleague career top 10 in blocks. He currently has 77 career blocks.
Khimki Moscow Region
Khimki head coach Sergio Scariolo coached Real Madrid for three seasons between 1999 and 2002. He led the club to the Spanish League championship in 2000.
Scariolo coached Real Madrid’s Jorge Garbajosa, Sergio Llull and Felipe Reyes at EuroBasket 2009 this summer, leading the Spanish national team to the gold medal in the process.
Scariolo also coached Garbajosa at Tau Ceramica (now Caja Laboral) between 1997 and 1999, at Unicaja between 2004 and 2006 and at Khimki last season. Together they won the 1999 and 2005 Spanish King’s Cups and the 2006 Spanish League championship.
Scariolo coached Madrid’s Louis Bullock at Unicaja during the 2003-04 season.
Robertas Javtokas was a teammate of Real Madrid swingman Travis Hansen during the 2007-08 season at Dynamo Moscow. Together they helped the club reach the ULEB Cup semifinals.
Raul Lopez has spent a total of five seasons playing for Real Madrid in the past. He played two seasons between 2000 and 2002 and three more from 2006 until 2009. With Madrid, Lopez won the 2007 ULEB Cup and the 2007 Spanish League championship.
Kelly McCarty was the MVP of the 2004 ULEB Cup Final when his team at the time, Hapoel Jerusalem, upset Real Madrid in the title 73-82 as McCarty came through with 22 points.
Vitaly Fridzon has not missed a free throw in 14 tries this season.
Raul Lopez has a streak of 19 consecutive made free throws dating back to last season.
Keith Langford was co-MVP for Week 5 after producing 20 points and 9 assists for a 38 index in a win over Asseco Prokom.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009