|A big Euroleague showdown is set to take place in the Spanish capital Thursday when Real Madrid welcomes CSKA Moscow in Group D. These teams have faced each other 33 times in the past, with big memories for European basketball. Madrid was the first Spanish team in any sports to play in the Soviet Union, facing CSKA in the 1963 European Cup final. They faced each other again in two more European Cup finals in 1965 and 1969, splitting wins. Their last major showdown came in 1996, when CSKA edged Madrid 74-73 in the European Cup third place game. Some of the best European players of all-time have taken part in this classic showdown and the game at Palacio Vistalegre will not be an exception, with European and World Champions, as well as Olympic medallists in both team's lineup. CSKA will travel to Madrid without two key players, playmaker J.R. Holden and power forward Matjaz Smodis. Holden will break his 163-game streak in the competition. Zoran Planinic and Nikos Zisis are set to share the point guard duties without Holden around. Planinic will test his leadership against Pepe Sanchez, while Zisis has an interesting battle against Raul Lopez. The key matchups, however, are at the wing spots. Louis Bullock comes off a good game in Belgrade, but has the tough mission of facing Final Four MVP Trajan Langdon, in a showdown between two of the best Euroleague shooters in the last decade. Meanwhile, Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas will test his all-around skills against Madrid forwards Quinton Hosley and Alex Mumbru. Victor Khryapa and Victor Keyru will come off the CSKA bench to offer intensity, defense and athleticism. Meanwhile, Madrid has a reliable backup in Sergio Llull, who has been unstoppable lately. Both teams have deep, versatile frontcourts, so the battle in the paint will be equally interesting. Madrid has its franchise player in Felipe Reyes, with Jeremiah Massey and Axel Hervelle sharing minutes at power forward and Lazaros Papadopoulos as a solid choice as center due to his experience and post moves. Papadopoulos will test his strength against Aleksey Savrasenko. Meanwhile, Hervelle and Massey are set to battle against All-Euroleague forward Terence Morris and former Euroleague Rising Star award original winner Erazem Lorbek. Both Morris and Lorbek will have to double their efforts on defense to stop Reyes. As usual, CSKA will try to win the game with outstanding defense and an extremely organized offense, with outstanding ball circulation. Madrid has lost three games in a row – two in the Spanish League and its Euroleague showdown against Partizan – and cannot afford another one. Expect drama, intensity and above, one of those outstanding games that only the Euroleague can offer.
- Power forward Felipe Reyes needs only 8 rebounds to reach 500 for his Euroleague career. He would become the 24th player in competition history to achieve that feat.
- Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow have famously met 33 times in the past, with some great memories for European basketball among them. Madrid was the first Spanish team in any sports to play in the Soviet Union, facing CSKA in the 1963 European Cup final. They faced each other again in two more European Cup finals in 1965 and 1969, splitting wins. Their last major showdown came in 1996, when CSKA edged Madrid 74-73 in the European Cup third place game.
- Center Lazaros Papadopoulos had one of the most diverse performances of his Euroleague career against CSKA. Papadopoulos had 8 points, 9 rebounds and a career-high 7 assists in just his second-ever Euroleague game for Panathinaikos back in October 2001. His Madrid teammate, Pepe Sanchez, made his Euroleague debut in that game.
- Papadopoulos played alongside CSKA guard Nikos Zisis on the Greek national teams that won the gold medal at the 2005 European Championships and the silver medal at the 2006 World Championships. Papadopoulos was also a teammate of current CSKA star Trajan Langdon at Dynamo Moscow in the 2004-05 season.
- Led by rising star Sergio Llull with 19 points, the Real Madrid reserves outscored the starters 41-36 in last week’s game at Partizan.
- Big man Terrence Morris leads the league with 4 blocks per game. His average of 1.93 blocks per game for his career places him second on the all-time charts.
- The best game of Morris’s still young Euroleague career came lasts season against his Week 3 opponent, Real Madrid. Morris recorded 23 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting, 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks for a 31 index in a Top 16 win in overtime in Madrid last season.
- Erazem Lorbek won the Week 2 MVP last season after he tagged Real Madrid for 24 points on 8-for-11 two-point and 2-for-2 three-point shooting, plus 6 rebounds for a 29 index in Madrid. However his team, Lottomatica Roma, lost 89-83.
- Guard J.R. Holden will see his streak of 163 consecutive appearances in Euroleague games snapped this week as he sits out with a broken finger.
- The last time these two teams met, CSKA needed overtime to beat Madrid 71-80 in the Spanish capital in January 2006. Trajan Langdon led CSKA that night with 17 points in a career-high 41 minutes.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008