Two teams fighting for different goals will go against each other in Group A on Wednesday when Tau Ceramica welcomes Prokom Trefl Sopot to Vitoria, Spain. With one more victory, Tau (10-2) will assure itself a top seeding in the Top 16, because it could then do no worse than being the best second-place team in the competition. Still, Tau might have to win twice to save first place in this group. Meanwhile, Prokom (5-7) will advance to the Top 16 only if it wins and Climamio (4-8) loses at home against Efes Pilsen. If both teams win or both lose this week, Prokom and Climamio will face off in the final regular season game, in Poland, with fifth place on the line. Tau Ceramica will be without injured perimeter players Zoran Planinic (11 ppg., 4.7 apg.) and Sergi Vidal, but can count on both Kaya Peker and Fred House, who missed the team's road loss at Climamio last week. Tau signed Ender Arslan to a short-term contract, but he is not eligible to play Euroleague games with his new team until the start of the Top 16. As such, Pablo Prigioni (7.3 ppg., 100% 2FG, 5.2 apg.) will be the only pure playmaker ready for Wednesday, although Igor Rakocevic (16.3 ppg., 45.3% 3FG) and House (6.7 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 2.6 spg.) will help with the point guard duties. The Tau backcourt also features sharpshooter Serkan Erdogan (12.5 ppg., 44.6% 3FG), but his presence on Wednesday is in doubt due to an ongoing injury. Meanwhile, Prokom has a deep, versatile backcourt in which Donatas Slanina (10.6 ppg., 87.5% FT) and Christian Dalmau (11.5 ppg.) lead the team in scoring. Playmakers Justin Hamilton (5.4 ppg.) and Rashid Atkins (5.8 ppg., 47.4% 3FG), as well as versatile Jasmin Hukic (7.2 ppg.), will help their team in many ways. Prokom will likely be without forward Jeff Nordgaard due to an elbow injury. Prokom's defense will be most concerned in slowing Luis Scola (16.8 ppg.), who will receive his December MVP trophy in a brief pre-game ceremony. Scola is just the centerpiece of a deep frontcourt featuring Peker (5.5 ppg.), Tiago Splitter (9.1 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) and Mirza Teletovic (4.5 ppg.). Splitter will have a tough test against Huseyin Besok (10.7 ppg., 5 rpg.), while Filip Dylewicz (3.3 rpg.), Adam Wojcik (8.7 ppg.) and Michael Andersen (5.5 ppg.) will have help against Scola in the low post, where the reigning Olympic champion can be unstoppable at times. Prokom will have to try dominate the game tempo with its serious defense, even though Tau is always a heavy favorite on its own court.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007