|CSKA Moscow will close out the regular season at home Wednesday in a decisive game for the visiting Partizan Belgrade. The reigning champs have not only secured a berth in the Top 16, but also have wrapped up the top spot in the group. Partizan however, can still finish anywhere from second to fifth. The Serbian champs are through to the next stage with a road win at CSKA, something Partizan has never done. Head coach Dusko Vujosevic’s men could also advance if they lose, but will need help from Panionios, which would have to beat Armani Jeans by more than 4, but less than 32 points. Partizan’s hungry young squad should be ready for the challenge, after coming within three last-second shots in the paint from beating CSKA when they played in November. CSKA held on to win that game 62-63 as Erazem Lorbek and Zoran Planinic were among four CSKA scorers in double figures. Head coach Ettore Messina’s charges are coming off a big win in Istanbul, 55-74 over Efes Pilsen, as Trajan Langdon put on a shooting clinic making 7 of 10 three-pointers en route to a season-high 27 points. Meanwhile Partizan last week blasted Panionios 80-57 as teenager Jan Vesely erupted for 19 points and 10 rebounds. Partizan outrebounded Panionios 41-18 in that game as Slavko Vranes hauled in career-high 13 boards. Partizan is among the best rebounding teams in the competition and leads it in offensive boards, which could become a major theme in this game. Partizan will crash the boards with Vesely, Vranes, Stephane Lasme and Novica Velickovic, while CSKA counters with Lorbek, Matjaz Smodis, Terence Morris and Viktor Khryapa, while Sasha Kaun could also play a role at center off the bench. Partizan will need small forward Cedomir Vitkovac to step up against Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas, while the visitors rely upon Milenko Tepic, Aleksandar Rasic and Uros Tripkovic against Langdon, Planinic, J.R. Holden and Nikos Zisis. Even though this game ultimately has no bearing on CSKA’s progress, the proud champs will no doubt give their all for the win. However Partizan’s hunger and enthusiasm could trump that in this game. The keys for Partizan will be to control the glass and to keep Siskauskas and Langdon in check. CSKA lost its last home game before the break and will not want to lose two in a row at home, but Partizan is playing for its season, making this game one not to miss.
- Reigning Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas is just 1 steal away from reaching 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- The best individual performance of Zoran Planinic’s career came in Belgrade against Partizan. Planinic scored a career-best 30 points on 5-for-5 three-point shooting for Cibona Zagreb in an 81-76 loss at Pionir Hall in November 2001.
- Guard Trajan Langdon shot 7 for 10 from downtown last week at Efes Pilsen to lead CSKA with 27 points – his best output since scoring 32 as a Euroleague rookie in November 2002.
- Guard Milenko Tepic has made at least one three-pointer in 14 consecutive Euroleague games. The streak dates back to the Top 16 last season.
- The magic number for Partizan has been 80 points. The Serbian champs have won 10 of the last 11 games in which they have scored at least 80.
- Partizan is one of three teams in the competition with two players in the top 10 in blocked shots. Stephane Lasme is second with 1.7 blocks per game and Slavko Vranes is tied for seventh with 1.2 per game.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009