Two teams with drastically different opening night fates meet on Thursday when Regal FC Barcelona hosts Cibona Zagreb in Group A encounter. Barcelona started the season with a bang, blasting Fenerbahce Ulker 59-82 on the road as all 11 players in uniform scored a basket, Ricky Rubio dished 9 assists and Pete Mickeal dominated with a career-high 26 points. The only thing that was less than ideal for Regal FCB was its three-point shooting (3 for 16, 18.7%), but head coach Xavi Pascual will surely settle for that when his team plays the way it did last week. Cibona meanwhile broke a record for the worst offensive outing by a home team in competition history after being suffocated by Montepaschi Siena 40-85. All 11 Cibona players that took the court committed at least one turnover as Cibona combined for 27 in a disastrous outing. Cibona will have a tough time reversing its luck at Barcelona as Regal FCB prepares for its home opener. Head coach Velimir Perasovic will need his backcourt to be near-perfect this week to have a chance at upsetting Barca. Point guard Jamont Gordon, shooting guard Marko Tomas, the leading scorer last week with 12, and instant-offense Antonio Graves must find a way to stop Euroleague MVP Juan Carlos Navarro, Rubio and Ginaluca Basile. And that’s assuming Jaka Lakovic sits this game out with an injury. The visitors send young Bojan Bogdanovic and Marin Rozin to match up with Mickeal at small forward. In the paint Barca boats Fran Vazquez, Erazem Lorbek, Terrence Morris and Boni NDong, who will face of against Cibona’s Dalibor Bagaric, Luksa Andric and Tomislav Zubcic. Barca enters the game with home-court advantage and confidence in addition to superior depth and talent in its lineup, which are all the more reasons to expect a comfortable win. The biggest reasons not to pick Barca come from Cibona, whose young team is as determined as ever following last week’s loss to earn respect and there is no better way than with a road win over a contender. That spirit shan’t be overlooked when these teams take the floor on Thursday.
REFEREES: Guerrino Cerebuch, Christos Christodoulou, David Chambon
Regal FC Barcelona
Center Boniface NDong has had great success against Cibona in recent years. NDong is averaging 12.3 points on 57.6% shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 2 blocks over four games against the Croatian champs. Included among them are a career-best 14-rebound and 5-block performance in Zagreb in December 2007 as his team at the time, Unicaja, won 62-76.
Guards Juan Carlos Navarro and Jaka Lakovic are ranked third and fourth, respectively, on the Euroleague career scoring charts. Navarro has 2,138 career points and Lakovic is just 8 points behind. Gianluca Basile is seventh on the list with 1,913 points.
Basile became the Euroleague career leader in games played last week with 182 appearances. He broke a tie with former teammate David Andersen, who is no longer in the league.
Big man Erazem Lorbek needs just 7 more points to reach the 1,000-point mark in his Euroleague career.
Center Fran Vazquez trails Aleksey Savrasenko by 4 blocked shots for second place on the Euroleague career blocked shot list. Vazquez now has 116 blocks in 100 career games.
Lakovic has made multiple three-pointers in his last six Euroleague appearances.
Ricky Rubio has recorded at least one steal in each of his last 11 Euroleague appearances.
Pete Mickeal scored a Euroleague career-high 26 points in just 24 minutes in his Regal FCB debut last week.
Marko Tomas scored a Euroleague career-high 18 points in his last visit to Barcelona. Tomas, then with Real Madrid, came off the bench to shoot 3 for 4 from downtown and lead his team with 18 points in just 13 minutes. Nevertheless Barcelona won 90-79.
Center Dalibor Bagaric and Barcelona big man Erazem Lorbek were teammates at Fortitudo Bologna between 2004 and 2006. Together they won the 2005 Italian League championship.
Bagaric and Barcelona guard Victor Sada were teammates at Akasvayu Girona during the 2006-07 season. Together they won the 2007 FIBA EuroCup.