|Armani Jeans Milano will try to boost its Top 16 hopes when it hosts Partizan Belgrade in a Group D matchup. These two classic Euroleague sides are among several jockeying for position in the group where four teams are separated by one win. Armani Jeans is last in the group with a 2-5 record after its loss last week at Efes Pilsen, but has its next two games at home and has won its last two in Milano. Partizan is locked in a three-way tie for third place at 3-4 after a heart-breaking loss at Real Madrid last week. The Serbian champs held off Milano 81-76 when they met earlier this season in Belgrade as Stephane Lasme dominated the paint and helped Partizan outrebound Milano 35-17 – including 19-3 on the offensive glass. That could be a major factor this time as well since Partizan leads the league in offensive rebounding and is third in overall rebounding, while Milano is last in rebounding and second-last on the offensive glass. There is hope for head coach Piero Bucchi’s men since Pape Sow, who missed the bulk of the first games through injury, adds power to the frontcourt now alongside Mason Rocca. Furthermore, Milano sometimes accepts its rebounding disadvantage, but makes up for it with a smaller and quicker lineup featuring the athletic Mike Hall at power forward. That trio, plus energetic reserve Mindaugas Katelynas, will square off with Lasme, Novica Velickovic, Slavko Vranes and Jan Vesely inside. In the backcourt, head coach Dusko Vujosevic has seen one of his trusted reserves leading the team lately as Uros Tripkovic shot 6 for 8 from downtown last week at Madrid and 8 for 9 on Sunday in the Adriatic League. His firepower blends well with guards Milenko Tepic and Alaksandar Rasic. Milano has a deeper backcourt with David Hawkins, Yohann Sangare, Massimo Bulleri, Jobey Thomas and Marco Mordente. Milano often features a three-guard lineup, so it will be interesting to see how the size differences effect the matchups as Tepic and small forward Cedomis Vitkovac are both more than 2 meters tall, while Hawkins and Thomas are only 1.93 and 1.94 meters, respectively. This game could turn quickly on the long shots, since both teams feature guards that can change things when they heat up. And both teams also have experienced players that can handle the pressure. And there will be plenty of that as these talented squads play a crucial encounter that could determine which one is still playing in February.
Armani Jeans Milano
- Guard David Hawkins has posted impressive individual numbers in five career performances against Partizan. He has scored in double figures in all five games and averaged 12.8 points and 3.8 steals. He has recorded a career-high 6 steals twice and has his only career multi-blocked shot game (2) against the club.
- Guard Massimo Bulleri is coming off his finest individual effort of the season after scoring 14 points and dishing 5 assists last week at Efes Pilsen. He had combined for 17 points and 4 assists in his four previous games.
- Head coach Piero Bucchi has used the same starting five – Yohann Sangare, David Hawkins, Jobey Thomas, Mike Hall and Mason Rocca – for the last four games. Aside from Rocca, the other four have started every game this season.
- Guard Milenko Tepic has made at least one three-pointer in 12 consecutive Euroleague games. The streak dates back to the Top 16 last season. He has made 24 triples in 53 attempts (45.3%) during the streak.
- Center Slavko Vranes needs one more blocked shot to reach 50 for his Euroleague career.
- The magic number for Partizan has been 80 points. The Serbian champs have won nine of the last 10 games in which they have scored at least 80.
- Sharpshoter Uros Tripkovic recorded the lone blocked shot of his Euroleague career at Real Madrid in January 2006. He blocked the shot of center Venson Hamilton.
- Tripkovic is red-hot from downtown lately. He shot 6 for 8 from behind the arc last week at Madrid and 8 for 9 on Sunday in the Adriatic League.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008