|A direct fight to reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs from Top 16 Group H takes place in Siena, Italy, where Montepaschi hosts Cibona on Thursday night. Both teams are tied for second place in Group H at 2-2, with CSKA ranking first at 3-1 and Fenerbahce Ulker fourth at 1-3. Cibona already downed Montepaschi 88-81 in Zagreb, Croatia, in the Top 16 opener in January, which is a critical factor in this game. Cibona will make it to the playoffs if it beats Montepaschi in Siena, as it would have a 2-0 record against the reigning Italian League and Italian Cup champions. Meanwhile, Montepaschi can clinch a playoff berth if it beats Cibona by at least 7 points and CSKA beats FB Ulker. Montepaschi, however, is unbeaten at home in all competitions since December 19, 2007. The key matchup of this game may well take place at point guard. All-Euroleague guard Terrell McIntyre is Montepaschi's floor general, as coach Simone Pianigiani runs his team's offense through him. McIntyre will get some valuable help from backup playmaker Morris Finley and veteran combo guard Arriel McDonald. McIntyre has a tough matchup against Earl Calloway, one of the most pleasant surprises in the Euroleague this season. Calloway is ready to lead his team, but Vedran Princ and combo guard and clutch expert Davor Kus are ready to help him at any time. The battle in the paint will be equally interesting, as Cibona counts on several blue-collar, hard-nosed centers like Jared Homan and Niksa Prkacin. Bruno Sundov, Vedran Vukusic and Luksa Andric are ready to open the court with their shots from downtown and can also help around the baskets. Shaun Stonerook and Ksistof Lavrinovic play a key role for Siena, as they will try to take Prkacin and Homan outside the paint to open the court for the rest of the team. Ben Eze, who has been in great shape this season, is ready for a big matchup against Prkacin down low. Montepaschi is deep at both wings with star guard Rimas Kaukenas, physical small forward Romain Sato and experienced shooter Henry Domercant, plus Marco Carrareto providing defense, intensity and the occasional three-pointer off the bench. Kaukenas will try to use his size and experience against Kus and Alan Anderson. Meanwhile, Marin Rozic faces a big matchup against Sato, while Kus will test his shooting skills against Domercant. Cibona must slow down the game tempo and get Prkacin and Calloway involved to increase its chances. Monteapschi must be its usual self in offense, always looking for the extra pass with outstanding ball circulation. It is do-or-die time for both teams, so expect an action packed thriller with so much on the line.
- Montepaschi Siena has won 13 straight and 17 of its last 18 Euroleague home games dating back to the start of last season.
- All-Euroleague playmaker Terrell McIntyre has made at least 1 three-pointer in 11 straight appearances.
- Forward Shaun Stonerook recorded a Euroleague career-high 18 points in his team’s Top 16 opener at Cibona in January.
- Swingman Alan Anderson has scored in double figures and grabbed a steal in eight straight Euroleague games going back to last season.
- Guard Earl Calloway scored a season-high 23 points in his team’s win over Montepaschi Siena in the Top 16 opener in January.
- Big man Jared Homan scored a season-high 16 points in 19 minutes off the bench last week at Fenerbahce Ulker.
- Center Niksa Prkacin needs 2 more baskets to reach 500 for his Euroleague Basketball career. All but 2 of those baskets have been two-pointers.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009