|Second place in Group B will be on the line on Thursday when Montepaschi Siena hosts Panathinaikos. The two teams enter the game tied for second with 6-2 records and with theoretic chances to win the group, though they would each need to win both remaining games and for group leader Regal FC Barcelona to lose its remaining games for that to happen. The Greens topped Montepaschi in a thriller in Athens in November as Sarunas Jasikevicius and Dimitris Diamantidis overturned a late deficit for an 81-76 win. A double win for Panathinaikos would guarantee head coach Zeljko Obradovic’s men at least second place in the group, while a win by more than 5 points would do the same for the Italian champs. Head coach Simone Pianigiani’s troops are coming off a loss to Barca from before the break, but have a bit of a different look now. The club has added former Panathinaikos playmaker Arriel McDonald to fortify the backcourt and he may need to step right in with Morris Finley sidelined and Rimas Kaukenas questionable. Meanwhile the Greek champs are finally fully healthy after a series of injury problems in December. These two teams feature incredibly versatile lineups with big men that can score outside, guards that go inside and two of the best coaching minds in basketball that know how to use them. One key matchup will take place at point guard, where the hosts feature All-Euroleague first team selection Terrell McIntyre and Panathinaikos boasts perennial Best Defender Award winner Diamantidis. Those two may not necessarily guard one another though, as Montepaschi brings Henry Domercant and Romain Sato as well as McDonald, while the Greens have Jasikevicius, Vassilis Spanoulis and Drew Nicholas, among others. The teams are equally deep in the paint with Shaun Stonerook, Ben Eze and Ksistof Lavrinovic for the hosts and Mike Batiste, Antonis Fotsis, Nikola Pekovic and Kostas Tsartsaris for the visitors. Montepaschi is naturally the favorite at home, where it has won 10 straight Euroleague games, however for a high-scoring team (81.3 ppg.), it may be difficult to face Panathinaikos’s defense without Kaukenas. McDonald’s contributions and if needed the shooting of reserve swingman Marco Carraretto could prove to be difference makers, but either way this game has the makings of a fierce battle that could go down to the last shot.
- Montepaschi Siena has won 10 straight and 14 of its last 15 Euroleague home games dating back to the start of last season.
- Guard Henry Domercant matched his Euroleague career high with 29 points against Panathinaikos in an April 2005 Quarterfinal Playoff game. Domercant, then with Efes Pilsen, scored 29 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in a 102-96 overtime loss at OAKA. Current Panathinaikos swingman Dusan Kecman was a teammate of Domercant’s on that team.
- Domercant’s streak of 12 consecutive Euroleague appearances with at least 1 three-pointer made came to an end in his last game before the winter break.
- Forward Shaun Stonerook’s streak of 23 consecutive Euroleague appearances with at least 1 steal came to an end in his last game before the winter break.
- Big man Ksistof Lavrinovic and guard Rimas Kaukenas were teammates with Panathinaikos guard Sarunas Jasikevicius on the Lithuanian Olympic team last summer. Lavrinovic and Jasikevicius were also teammates on the Lithuanian side that won the 2003 European championships in Sweden.
- Small forward Romain Sato is coming off one of the most incredible performances of the season anywhere with a 56 index ranking in the Italian League contest against Virtus Bologna on Sunday. Sato recorded 37 points on 7-of-8 two-point and 3-of-4 three-point shooting. He also drew 10 fouls and shot 14 for 17 from the line, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished 5 assists.
- New signing Arriel McDonald could take part in his first Euroleague game in nearly five years. Ironically, his last Euroleague appearance was against his new team, Montepaschi, with this week’s opponent, Panathinaikos, in the last game of the Top 16 in April 2004.
- McDonald spent two seasons playing for Panathinaikos, winning two Greek championships and one Greek Cup. Aside from head coach Zeljko Obradovic, McDonald will be reunited with former teammates Fragiskos Alvertis, Mike Batiste, Nikos Hatzivrettas, Dusan Sakota and Kostas Tsartsaris.
- Guard Dimitris Diamantidis has made at least 1 three-pointer in 15 straight Euroleague appearances dating back to last season. Diamantidis enters this week’s game shooting 15 for 29 (51.7%) from downtown this season – the best of his career.
- This week will mark the 100th appearance of Diamantidis’s Euroleague career. He has played all of those games in a Panathinaikos uniform. Diamantidis will become the sixth player on the club roster with at least 100 Euroleague appearances joining Kostas Tsartsaris (154), Nikos Hatzivrettas (133), Sarunas Jasikevicius (121), Mike Batiste (119) and Fragiskos Alvertis (115).
- Power forward Antonis Fotsis and Montepaschi guard Henry Domercant were teammates at Dynamo Moscow last season, helping the club reach the ULEB Cup semifinals.
- Forward Stratos Perperoglou scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds – both Euroleague career-highs – in the last game before the winter break against SLUC Nancy.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009