The Top 16 aspirations of historic teams from two European capitals clash on Thursday in Rome, Italy, where Lottomatica hosts Cibona with their survival in Group B at stake. Cibona (6-7) need only to win in order to advance to the Top 16, and may do so from as high as third place, depending on other results. Cibona can also advance in defeat, if it loses by less than 14 points and Unicaja downs Partizan. In that case, Cibona would be fifth in a three-way tie with Roma and Partizan. Roma (5-8) must win by at least 14 points and have Unicaja beat Partizan to finish fifth and move automatically to the next stage due to a three-way tie between Roma, Cibona and Partizan. If Roma doesn't win by at least 14, it has no chance to finish among the best five in the group. Both Roma, if wins by fewer than 14 points, and Cibona, if it loses, could also be in the hunt for the best sixth-place finish - the last ticket to the Top 16, since Eldo Napoli (6-8, -61) lost on Wednesday. The last time these two teams met, Chris Warren scored 22 and Brent Wright erupted for 17 points, 13 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks to lead Cibona to a 91-84 overtime home win. Wright (12.2 ppg., 7.7 rpg.) has struggled a bit lately, particularly on the road, where he has shot 1-for-10 from the field in his last two games. Starting center Marton Bader and reserves Luksa Andric and Jurica Zuza will all need to do their part to help Wright and create an effective frontline against their Roma counterparts, led by Ognjen Askrabic (8.1 ppg., 5.2 rpg.), Loukas Mavrokefalides and Luca Garri. Dejan Bodiroga (14 ppg., 2.7 apg.) remains the focal point of the Roma attack, but the scoring is now divided among guards Mire Chatman (10.4 ppg., 2.6 spg.), David Hawkins (14.4 ppg., 2.8 spg.) and sweet-shooting Alex Righetti (8.1 ppg.). Cibona counters with playmaker Davor Kus (13.9 ppg., 3.1 apg.), Andrew Wisniewski (12 ppg.) and Warren (13.9 ppg., 5 rpg.). There will be a lot of pressure on the visiting guard trio, who needs to get Wright and Bader involved while going against the team that leads the league in steals (15.5 spg.). Psychologically, the 14-point cushion could hurt Cibona, which will not only need to surive in order to make the Top 16, but could boost its confidence going forward with a first road win of the season. Something similar could be said for Roma, which could cap a big comeback to make the next round with a lot of momentum. All of which makes for a sure thriller in the Italian capital on Thursday.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007