A big fight in the upper part in Group D is set to take place in Russia, as BC Khimki Moscow Region hosts Euroleague defending champion Panathinaikos on Wednesday. Panathinaikos is tied with Real Madrid for first place at 5-1 and will mathematically advance to the Top 16 with a win. Panathinaikos will also make it with a loss if Armani Jeans Milano downs EWE Baskets Oldenburg. BC Khimki, which is second at 4-2, will be all but mathematically into the next round for the first time in club history if it downs the Greens, rejoining the fight to win the group at the same time. It will a special game for Khimki center Robertas Javtokas, who won the Euroleague title with Panathinaikos in 2007. Javtokas will be a key player in this game, as Khimki will have to make an outstanding team effort to stop All-Euroleague center Nikola Pekovic. Javtokas and up-and-coming big man Timofey Mozgov are ready for a critical matchup against Pekovic, one of the most unguardable players in the competition due to his size, power and footwork. Pekovic leads a rock-solid Panathinaikos frontcourt that also offers star pivotman man Mike Batiste, experienced big man Kostas Tsartsaris, center Giorgi Shermadini and three-point threat Antonis Fotsis. Jankunas is set to see most minutes against Batiste and will try to take advantage of his deep range and rebounding skills against him. Fedor Dmitriev has to be tough and effective against Fotsis. Khimki is ready to open the court with Dmitriev and Jankunas at the three-point line, generating one-on-one opportunities against Pekovic to get him into foul trouble. Panathinaikos will be very concerned with stopping Kelly McCarty, who bounced back from a slow start in his Euroleague debut season and is already playing at his usual level at small forward. McCarty is set to share playing time with Keith Langford and Vitaly Fridzon at both wings. Stratos Perperoglou and Fotsis are ready for a critical matchup against McCarty. Meanwhile, Langford is set for an interesting shootout against Drew Nicholas. Fridzon has the tough mission to guard reigning Final Four MVP Vassilis Spanoulis, always ready to use his set of one-on-one skills against any defender. Khimki relies on its Spanish point guard duo, Carlos Cabezas and Raul Lopez, to control the game tempo due to their experience and court sense. Panathinaikos is arguably the deepest team around when it comes to point guards. It can use defensive ace Dimitris Diamantidis to guard Cabezas, try to speed the game tempo with Sarunas Jasikevicius offering creativity or try to use Spanoulis at playmaker with Nick Calathes and Milenko Tepic offering a helping hand at any time. Khimki must stop Pekovic and get McCarty involved to win the game. Meanwhile, Panathinaikos must use its deep roster to play with high rhythm and intensity, looking for mismatches as often as possible. Add a big battle of coaches between EuroBasket 2009 champion Sergio Scariolo and seven-time Euroleague winner Zeljko Obradovic and the game could easily become one of the showdowns to remember in this 2009-10 season.
REFEREES: Zoran Sutulovic, Jose Ramon García Ortíz, Olegs Latisevs
BC Khimki Moscow region
Center Robertas Javtokas won the 2007 Euroleague, Greek League and Greek Cup with Panathinaikos. He played alongside current Greens stars Mike Batiste, Dimitris Diamantidis and Kostas Tsartsaris under coach Zeljko Obradovic.
Javtokas was a teammate of Panathinaikos forward Antonis Fotsis at Dynamo Moscow in the 2007-08 season. Together they reached the ULEB Cup semifinals.
Head coach Sergio Scariolo and guards Carlos Cabezas and Raul Lopez were on the winning side when Spain beat Greece in the semifinals at EuroBasket 2009 this summer. Panathinaikos players Vassilis Spanoulis, Nick Calathes, Antonis Fotsis and Stratos Perperoglou played on the Greek team.
Kelly McCarty scored 17 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead the Russian team over Greece 65-68 in a EuroBasket 2009 group stage contest. Khimki players Vitaly Frizdon, Timofey Mozgov and Fedor Dmitriev also represented Russia in that game.
Vitaly Fridzon has not missed a free throw in 16 tries this season.
Raul Lopez has a streak of 19 consecutive made free throws dating back to last season.
Javtokas scored a Euroleague career-high 17 points last week at Real Madrid.
Mike Batiste needs just 1 more rebound to catch Michalis Kakiouzis for eighth place on the Euroleague Basketball career rebounds list. Batiste currently has 744 career rebounds in 135 games. Next on the list for him is Kerem Gonlum in seventh place with 751 career boards.
Drew Nicholas made the 200th three-pointer of his Euroleague career last week against Armani Jeans Milano.
Nikola Pekovic has scored in double figures in every game this season and in 14 of his last 15 games dating back to last season.
Dimitris Diamantidis scored a career-high 22 points against Khimki Moscow Region in Week 2.