Lottomatica Roma hosts Tau Ceramica in what is a must-win Group D game for the hosts on Thursday in the Italian capital. While Tau (4-0) has already locked up first place in Group D and with it homecourt advantage in the Quarterfinal Playoffs, Roma (1-3) could face elimination if it loses and Maccabi Elite beats Pau-Orthez in Thursday's other game in this group. The game marks the return of new Tau coach Bozidar Maljkovic to the sidelines. Maljkovic wasn't there two weeks ago, when Tau whipped Roma 99-56 in a record-setting performance as Serkan Erdogan led five of his teammates in double figures with 24 points. With Roma (1-3) bent on revenge and survival, Maljkovic will debut without the luxury of having the team's leading scorers in the Top 16: Erdogan, who has a sprained ankle, and all-Euroleague power forward Luis Scola are taking the game off to rest. Roma has a big man missing, too, has Roberto Chiacig is out with injury a week after playing his best game with his new team. Despite Chiacib's double-double, Roma lost its third straight game last week at Pau-Orthez and will need to regroup quickly to save its season. Head coach Jasmin Repesa's squad has some experience with late comebacks, however, as they waited until the closing minutes of the regular season to secure a Top 16 berth. Tau remained red-hot last week with a convincing 94-73 win over Maccabi. The team's depth has helped it prevail through a recent stretch of injuries and coaching switches, with Zoran Planinic (9.9 ppg., 4.3 apg.) returning to game form last week and Igor Rakocevic (16.7 ppg.) available this week. Without Scola and Erdogan, Tau will look to others to score, like center Tiago Splitter (10.1 ppg., 5.6 rpg.) and swingman Fred House (7.4 ppg.), who have both raised their averages in the Top 16, while reserve guard Ender Arslan (8.3 ppg.) has blended in well with the team. Roma's backourt of Mire Chatman (11.4 ppg., 2.6 spg.) and David Hawkins (13.6 ppg., 2.4 spg.), with Alex Righetti (8.3 ppg.) and Jon Stefansson (7.3 ppg.) off the bench, will need to play prefect on both sides of the floor against Tau's guard rotation, which includes Pablo Prigioni (6.9 ppg., 5.3 apg., 2.6 spg.), Arslan, House and Planinic (9.9 ppg., 4.3 apg.). In the paint Roma turns to Ognjen Askrabic (7.2 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) and Luca Garri, among others, to stop Tau's trio of Splitter, Kaya Peker and Mirza Teletovic. Much of Roma's offense will go through veteran forward Dejan Bodiroga (13.4 ppg.), who seems to have a knack to step up in these games. Bodiroga, who has scored in double figures in each game that he has started this season, is likely Roma's best bet to effectively score and to establish a rhythm. If Bodiroga is on form as he has been in most big games during his career, Roma will have a chance to put an end to Tau's six-game winning streak.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007