|One of the biggest showdowns in the Euroleague in Week 2 takes place in Athens, Greece, where Olympiacos hosts Unicaja in Group A on Thursday. Both teams won their respective opening games 1, so the winner will at least tie for first place in Group A at the end of the day. Both teams played a major role in the off-season market and started the 2008-09 Euroleague with improved rosters. Olympiacos signed former Euroleague MVP Theo Papaloukas, star center Nikola Vujcic, last year's All-Euroleague second team selection Yotam Halperin, as well as Zoran Erceg and Josh Childress, among others. Meanwhile, Unicaja landed Thomas Kelati, Omar Cook, Robert Archibald and head coach Aito Garcia Reneses. Of course, slowing Papaloukas is a major issue for Unicaja, which counts on Carlos Cabezas and Cook to do it. Cabezas has been in great shape lately, becoming his team's leader. Milos Teodosic and defensive stopper Michalis Pelekanos will have the tough mission to slow Cabezas. Menawhile, Lynn Greer will test his scoring skills against Joseph Gomis. Unicaja has problems at both wing spots, as Berni Rodriguez and Alfonso Sanchez remain sidelined. As such Jiri Welsch, Kelati and Carlos Jimenez are set to see extended playing time in the near future. Welsch will test his defensive skills against Halperin, while Jimenez will have a key matchup against Childress. Kelati may be the X-factor for Unicaja due to his all-around skills, but Olympiacos features a similar player in Georgios Printezis. The battle in the paint will be interesting, as both teams feature hard-to-guard, yet very different players. Marcus Haislip of Unicaja has a rare combination of shooting range and athleticism, which he’ll use against Panos Vasilopoulos and Ioannis Bouroussis. Meanwhile, Vujcic offers his unique passing skills and Sofoklis Schortsianitis can be unstoppable due to his power and size. Schortsianitis and Vujcic will have a strong test against Archibald and Boniface Ndong, as German Gabriel remains sidelined for this week's game. If Unicja can use its trademark full-court pressure and play up-tempo, it will have more chances to win the game. Olympiacos will be back by thousands of fans at the Peace and Friendship Stadium and needs its stars to give 100% to stay undefeated. Above all, sit back and relax to enjoy another outstanding Euroleague game.
- Olympiacos will appear at home for the first time in front of its supporters this season. So far the Reds have played only one home game, in the Greek League against Aris, but without fans due to a sanction from incidents in the finals series last season versus Panathinaikos. The Reds' management has announced a new code of behavior for its fans, including a ban of smoking.
- Center Nikola Vujcic has averaged 17.2 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.3 blocks in six career Euroleague performances against Unicaja.
- Big man Sofoklis Schortsanitis has averaged 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 fouls drawn in just 22 minutes per game against Unicaja in his Euroleague career.
- Head coach Panagiotis Giannakis and five Olympiacos players – Theo Papaloukas, Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Ioannis Bouroussis, Georgios Printezis and Panos Vassilopoulos – were part of the Greek Olympic team that lost to the Spanish Olympic team this summer, which was coached by Unicaja head coach Aito Reneses Garcia and had Unicaja players Carlos Jimenez and Berni Rodriguez.
- Swingman Jiri Welsch needs just 3 more steals to reach 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Shot-blocker extraordinaire Marcus Hailsip swatted a career-high 6 shots against Olympiacos at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in January 2007. Haislip, then with Efes Pilsen, also recorded 22 points and 7 rebounds in his team’s 72-91 win.
- Guard Carlos Cabezas had one of the best games in his career in part against Olympiacos’s Yotam Halperin. Cabezas scored 32 points and dished 6 assists in a 106-101 overtime loss in the 2006-07 season opener at Maccabi Tel Aviv. Halperin scored 7 points in 27 minutes for the hosts that night. Cabezas recorded his career-high of 7 assists on the road at Olympiacos in February 2006.
- Last week center Robert Archibald fouled out for the 13th time in his Euroleague career. He has played in 37 career games and averages 3.5 fouls per game and commits a foul every 5:29 minutes of game action over the course of his career.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008