|A high-stakes battle in Group D takes place in the Spanish capital on Wednesday, where Real Madrid welcomes Efes Pilsen. Real Madrid has already qualified for the Top 16 and will finish second if it beats Efes. Madrid could even go down to fourth place with a loss, depending on other scores. Meanwhile, Efes could theoretically finish second with a win and other results going its way, or drop out of the Top 16 into fifth with a loss, with chances also to be third and fourth depending on other scores. Efes, however, will advance no matter what if it beats Madrid at Palacio Vistalegre. It will be a special game for Efes forward Charles Smith, who is back in Madrid to face his former team. Smith helped Real Madrid to win the ULEB Cup and the Spanish League in the 2006-07 season. He is ready for a big matchup against former teammate Alex Mumbru. Efes is deep at both wing spots, with well-rounded players such as Bootsy Thornton, Cenk Akyol and Preston Shumpert. Thornton is set to test his scoring skills against Louis Bullock. Meanwhile, Akyol and Shumpert will play a key role against Marko Tomas and Quinton Hosley, who already shined against Efes in Istanbul. Madrid will be most concerned with stopping Milos Vujanic, who shares the point guard duties in Efes with creative playmaker Erden Arslan. Sergio Llull will see playing time against Vujanic, while Raul Lopez and Pepe Sanchez are ready for a big battle against him and Arslan. At the same time, Efes needs to stop Felipe Reyes around the baskets to win in Madrid. Reyes leads a powerful Madrid froncourt. Recently-signed center Tomas Van den Spiegel offers intensity, defense and pick-and-roll skills, while Jeremiah Massey is a force at power forward. Reyes will test his rebounding skills against Kerem Gonlum, Michalis Kakiouzis will try to use his smarts and experience against the entire Madrid frontcourt while Kaya Peker and Predrag Drobnjak are ready to battle against Massey and Van den Spiegel. Madrid needs to be tough in defense and to stop Efes's wing players to add an important win. Meanwhile, Efes must get its frontcourt involved and slow down the game tempo. This game has all the makings of a 40-minute thriller with two talented teams looking for an important win that could pave the way for greater things down the road.
- Real Madrid head coach Joan Plaza has made use of his team’s depth by starting 13 different players in games this season. In the club’s last two games, Madrid’s reserves have outscored the starters 50-93.
- Big man Jeremiah Massey led his former team, Aris Thessaloniki, to two wins over Efes Pilsen last season. He averaged 16 points on 57.1% two-point shooting, 11 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in those games. He recorded 17 points and 7 rebounds for Madrid against Efes in a Week 5 win this season.
- Before joining Madrid, small forward Quinton Hosley dominated the Turkish League last season as a member of Pinar Karsiyaka. Hosley led the Turkish League in index ranking and rebounds and was second in the league in scoring. Hosley scored a season-high 24 points against Efes in Week 5.
- Small forward Charles Smith will make his return to Madrid this week after spending the past two seasons in the Spanish capital, helping Real win the Spanish League and the ULEB Cup titles in 2007. Smith faced Madrid twice in the 2004-05 season when he was with Scavolini Pesaro and averaged 22 points, 3 assists and 1.5 blocks in those games. He had 22 points and 5 steals against Madrid in a Week 5 loss this season.
- Forward Michailis Kakiouzis needs only 4 more defensive rebounds to reach 500 for his career – a feat only seven players to date have accomplished.
- Guard Bootsy Thornton scored a season-high 19 points last week against CSKA. He also drilled 3 three-pointers, giving him 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career. Thornton has shot 94.4% from the line over his last six games.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009