The 10th meeting in three seasons between Prokom Trefl and Efes Pilsen will end their Euroleague seasons on Wednesday in Sopot, Poland but is nonetheless intriguing for the speed in which this rivalry has been built. Neither team had faced the other ever before two seasons ago, but the last time they played, Prokom won for the first time after eight losses. That victory was the first by a Polish team in Top 16 history and also derailed Efes's plans of challenging for the quarterfinal playoffs. Now, they meet again, both eliminated with 1-4 records in Group F. The winner will finish third, and neither wants to finish behind the other. When they met in Istanbul last month, Prokom beat Efes 67-71 in overtime. This time around, Efes is coming off an 82-78 home win against Winterthur FCB in which Marcus Haislip (14.5 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 1.8 bpg.) had 25 points and 11 rebounds. Haislip leads the Top 16 in rebounds and blocked shots, highlighting a deep Efes frontcourt that also features rebound ace Kerem Gonlum (5.4 ppg., 4.2 rpg.), low post master Niksa Prkacin (6.7 ppg., 3.7 rpg.) and mobile big man Ermal Kuqo (8.8 ppg.). Both Gonlum and Haislip will have the tough mission to guard Michael Andersen (7.1 ppg., 3.6 rpg.), Filip Dylewicz (4.1 ppg.) and former Efes center Huseyin Besok (9.7 ppg., 41.7% 3FG, 4.5 rpg.). Meanwhile, Kuqo and Prkacin will test their defensive skills against experienced big men Tomas Masiulis (4.4 ppg., 4 rpg.) or Adam Wojcik (6.8 ppg.). The point guard battle will also be interesting, as Cuneyt Erden (4.9 ppg., 42.3% 3FG) and Fikret Can Akin (1.2 apg.) have been sharing the playmaker duties for Efes lately. Both players will have a tough matchup against Rashid Atkins (8.2 ppg., 45.5% 3FG, 2.6 apg.), who had 16 points against Efes in Istanbul, and Tomas Pacesas. Drew Nicholas (14.2 ppg., 40% 3FG, 3.7 apg.) stays as the main scoring threat for Efes, even when he gets plenty help at both wings from Antonio Granger (5.7 ppg., 40% 3FG). After coming out of nowhere to help beat Barcelona, teenage forward Baris Hersek (2.7 ppg.) might see extended playing time for Efes, too. Prokom has its own battery of shooters featuring Christian Dalmau (10.5 ppg., 2.2 apg.), Donatas Slanina (10.7 ppg., 88.9% FT) or Jasmin Hukic (6.7 ppg.). Above all, expect a defensive, balanced game in which each team will try to finish the Euroleague season on an up note.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007