|Two of the best teams in Group D are set to face each other in the Russian capital on Wednesday where reigning Euroleague champion CSKA Moscow hosts Turkish powerhouse Efes Pilsen. CSKA is the only unbeaten team in Group D, while Efes is hoping to bounce back from its first Euroleague loss against Panionios On Telecoms last week. CSKA enters this game with two starters, J.R. Holden and Matjaz Smodis, sidelined due to respective injuries. There is some good news for CSKA, as versatile Andrei Vorontsevich is back in action – and had 20 points in a Russian Cup game this weekend. With Holden out for the second consecutive week, Zoran Planinic and Nikos Zisis are set to share the point guard duties. Planinic has the tough mission of playing against Milos Vujanic, who has been unstoppable lately. Meanwhile, Zisis will test his skills against creative playmaker Ender Arslan. Efes is really deep at both wings, with experienced shooters like Charles Smith, Preston Shumpert and All-Euroleague second team selection Bootsy Thornton. Shumpert and Thornton will have a key matchup against Final Four MVP Trajan Langdon, who played a game-high 36 minutes against Real Madrid last week. Meanwhile, Smith will have the tough mission to guard Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas, in a key matchup for the outcome of this game. Cenk Akyol may have a key role against Siskauskas due his athleticism and quickness. Meanwhile, forwards Vorontsevich and Viktor Khryapa could be difference-makers with their deep shooting range and power. As usual, CSKA will rely on All-Euroleague big man Terence Morris and former Rising Star award winner Erazem Lorbek as its main references in the paint while Smodis stays sidelined. Morris faces a big challenge against Kerem Gonlum in a matchup of two of the best defensive big men around. Meanwhile, Lorbek and center Aleksey Savrasenko will test their skills against Kaya Peker and recently signed Dwayne Jones. Michalis Kakiouzis will try to use his speed and experience against Khryapa and Morris. These teams face each other for the first time since the 2006 Quarterfinal Playoffs, when CSKA swept Efes on its way to win its first Euroleague title since 1971. Efes looks for its first road win against CSKA since 1999, when Efes downed CSKA 98-105 in double overtime to reach the Euroleague Quarterfinals. When a host of experienced stars like these teams boast take the court, fans can expect nothing but fireworks in a big Group D showdown.
- Small forward Ramunas Siskauskas is 2 steals away from reaching 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Swingman Trajan Langdon spent the 2003-04 season playing for Efes Pilsen. He helped the club win the Turkish League championship and come within one win of the Euroleague Final Four. Three players from Efes’s current roster – Kaya Peker, Cenk Akyol and Ender Arslan – were teammates of his then. Langdon has only played Efes Pilsen twice since he left the team, averaging 18 points on 7-for-12 three-point shooting in the 2006 Quarterfinal Playoffs.
- Guard Nikos Zisis scored a career-high 22 points against Efes Pilsen in a March 2005 game. Zisis, then with AEK Athens, won the game with a miracle shot at the buzzer for a 70-69 victory. He fell down, got up and hit a turnaround three-pointer over two defenders as the horn sounded to finish a heroic comeback from 13 points down late in the third quarter.
- Guard Zoran Planinic set his career-high in assists against Efes Pilsen in a January 2007 game. Planinic, then with Tau Ceramica, dished 10 assists in a 78-84 road win in Istanbul.
- Guard Milos Vujanic is 21 points away from reaching Tyus Edney for 20th place on the Euroleague Basketball career scoring charts. He enters this week’s game at CSKA Moscow with 1,349 points.
- Big man Kerem Gonlum needs just 3 more steals to reach 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Forward Michailis Kakiouzis is 17 points away from reaching 1,500 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Efes Pilsen leads the all-time series against CSKA Moscow 7-4. Efes won five in a row between 1997 and 2003, but CSKA has won the last three, including sweeping the 2006 Quarterfinal Playoffs 2-0.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008