|Zalgiris Kaunas looks to put an end to a five-game losing streak when it hosts Montepaschi Siena in a Week 7 contest in Kaunas, Lithuania. Zalgiris comes off a tough loss at Asvel Basket last week, which dropped the team into a tie for last place in Group A at 1-5. As the battle for Top 16 berths intensify, every victory is precious and Zalgiris will give everything to protect its home court. Meanwhile Montepaschi bounced back nicely from its first loss by blasting Cibona last week to improve to 5-1. A win in Lithuania would already send head coach Simone Pianigiani’s side into the Top 16. Ben Eze scored 16 and Romain Sato produced a double-double to lead Montepaschi to an 84-64 win over Zalgiris in Siena in Week 2. Zalgiris turned the ball over 20 times that night, something it can ill-afford to do again. Head coach Gintaras Krapikas features a balanced lineup, led by his swingmen. The Euroleague’s career scoring leader, Marcus Brown, and Week 6 MVP Dainius Salenga are Zalgiris prime offensive weapons, with inconsistent rookie Marty Pocius providing a spark off the bench. They will test themselves against Montepaschi’s perimeter attack that boasts the explosive David Hawkins, superscorer Henry Domercant and the always-dangerous Sato. At point guard, Mantas Kalnietis will test his progress against two-time All-Euroleague playmaker Terrell McIntyre and Nikos Zisis. The battle inside sees Zalgiris send rebounding stud Travis Watson, shot-blocking threat Mirza Begic and backup Tadas Kilmavicius to tackle Eze, Ksistof Lavrinovic and captain Shaun Stonerook. Both Lavrinovic and Stonerook can open up the floor with their three-point shooting, creating a problem for the Zalgiris bigs, who prefer to stay closer to the basket. The key matchup could ultimately be at point guard, where Kalnietis produces an average of 4 turnovers per game – second most in the league – and faces a defense that prides itself on takeaways. If Kalnietis or Zalgiris (17.5 TOpg.) do not take care of the ball and allow Montepaschi to turn steals into easy baskets, the hosts will have a rough time looking for the win. However, if Zalgiris is able to control the ball and just as importantly, slow the tempo and feed it inside to Begic and Watson, the hosts will have a real shot at victory.
REFEREES: Carl Jungebrand, Emilio Perez Pizarro, Marko Juras
Marcus Brown and Montepaschi center Denis Marconato were teammates during the 2000-01 season at Benetton Treviso.
Brown has made at least 1 three-pointer in eight consecutive Euroleague appearances dating back to last season.
Dainius Salenga was the Week 6 MVP after recording 25 points and a 28 index despite losing at Asvel Basket.
Salenga was a teammate of Montepaschi big man Ksistof Lavrinovic on the Lithuanian national team that won the gold medal at EuroBasket 2003 in Sweden. They also played together for Lithuania at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Mirza Begic has blocked a shot in five straight games.
Zalgiris head coach Gintaras Krapikas has dressed the exact same starting five – Kalnietis, Brown, Salenga, Watson and Begic – in every Euroleague game this season.
Mantas Kalnietis was a teammate of Montepaschi big man Ksistof Lavrinovic on the Lithuanian national team at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland.
Henry Domercant scored a season-high 21 points against Zalgiris last season. He was 4 for 4 from downtown as Montepaschi won 100-93.
Domercant has made 34 consecutive free throws over his past 19 Euroleague games.
Ben Eze recorded the first double-double of his Euroleague career at Zalgiris in January 2008. Eze posted 10 points and 11 rebounds in a 75-69 loss.
Eze scored a season-high 16 points in a Week 2 win over Zalgiris.
Eze continues to move up on the Euroleague career shot-blocking charts. He is now tied for 12th place with 78 career blocks, needing just 2 more to crack the top 10.
Nikos Zisis had one of the best games of his career against Zalgiris in December 2006 when he played for Benetton Treviso. Zisis scored 16, dished 11 assists and picked up 2 steals for a career-high 29 index as Benetton won 76-86.
Ksistof Lavrinovic’s twin brother, Darjus Lavrinovic, was named to the All-Euroleague team when he played for Zalgiris in the 2005-06 season. Darjus spent three seasons altogether at Zalgiris.
All-Euroleague point guard Terrell McIntyre has drilled at least one three-pointer in 22 consecutive Euroleague games.
Romain Sato has picked up at least 1 steal in eight consecutive Euroleague games.
Denis Marconato passed Luis Scola last week for third place on the career offensive rebounding list. Marconato now has 277 offensive boards and needs 12 more to reach Kerem Gonlum for second place with 289. The all-time leader is FB Ulker’s Mirsad Turkcan with 337.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009