|Two teams with very different goals are ready to battle in Athens, Greece, where Panathinaikos welcomes SLUC Nancy in Group B on Wednesday. Panathinaikos will make it to the Top 16 if it beats Nancy. The Greens, 5-2, are battling against Montepaschi Siena and Regal FC Barcelona, both at 6-1, to win this group. Meanwhile, Nancy is tied for fourth place with Asseco Prokom at 2-5 and is in a direct fight with the Polish champs to grab the last Top 16 ticket available from this group. The Greek champs are facing injury problems, as Nikola Pekovic and Vassilis Spanoulis may miss the game on Wednesday. If Pekovic is sidelined, Mike Batiste will be the Greens' main reference around the baskets. Kostas Tsartsaris and Antonis Fotsis will be ready to see extended playing time while veteran Fragiskos Alvertis and up-and-coming big man Giorgi Shermadini may see time too. Batiste and Tsartsaris will battle against Cyril Julian, who is having a superb season. Nancy’s rotation is a bit short in the paint as the club released Rod Benson and its new signing Akin Akingbala will not play against the Greens. As such, expect Julian, Amadou Aboubacar Zaki and Lamayn Wilson to see extended playing time, while Victor Samnick may also see some minutes at power forward. The point guard battle will be one of the keys to the game, as Nancy features Serge Tchicamboud and John Cox sharing the playmaking duties. Tchicamboud will have a strong test against Dimitris Diamantidis, a four-time Best Defender trophy winner. Meanwhile, Cox will test his shooting skills and creativity against three-time Euroleague winner Sarunas Jasikevicius. Panathinaikos will be very concerned with stopping the Greer brothers, Ricardo and Jeff. It will not be strange to see Diamantidis guarding Ricardo Greer, Nancy's key player. Dusan Kecman, Nikos Hatzivrettas and Drew Nicholas will see extended playing time if Spanoulis is sidelined. Kecman will try to stop Jeff Greer while Nicholas is ready to match Michel Morandais's shooting skills. Even though Panathinaikos is the heavy favorite, Nancy is almost in a do-or-die situation, as it needs one more win than Prokom in the next three games in order to advance.
- Guard Dimitris Diamantidis is closing in on 200 steals for his Euroleague Basketball career. Diamantidis is fifth on the all-time list with 198. Only four players – Theo Papaloukas, Gianlica Basile, Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Holden – have reached 200.
- Diamantidis has made at least 1 three-pointer in 14 straight Euroleague appearances dating back to last season.
- Big man Mike Batiste is now tied for 10th on Euroleague Basketball career rebounding list. Batiste tied Jorge Garbajosa last week with 667 career boards. The next active player with a chance to crash the top 10 would be teammate Kostas Tsartsaris, who enters this week’s game with 646 career boards.
- Big man Cyril Julian has performed at an elite level on the road this season, averaging 18.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2 steals in three games away from home so far. Last week marked the first time he scored in double figures at home.
- Guard John Cox doubled his pervious season high last week when he netted 16 points against Asseco Prokom.
- Nine different players have appeared in Nancy’s starting lineup this season and only Ricardo Greer has started in every game.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008