Two classic Euroleague teams will go against each other in Group F with different goals in mind when Efes Pilsen welcomes Winterthur FC Barcelona to Istanbul, Turkey on Wednesday. Efes (0-4) is mathematically out of the playoff race but will try for its pride to get a prestigious win in its last Euroleague home game of the season. Meanwhile, Winterthur FCB (3-1) is already qualified and still depends on itself to finish first in this group: a win in Istanbul would set up a showdown with Panathinaikos in the Top 16 finale. When they faced each other in Barcelona two weeks ago, Barcelona beat Efes 82-73 behind 24 points on 6-of-10 triples from Juan Carlos Navarro (17.2 ppg., 42.4% 3FG, 86.5% FT, 3.1 apg.), the regular season top scorer and the current Top 16 assists leader. Navarro is the natural leader of a solid Barcelona backcourt with experienced players all over the place. Barcelona has an advantage at the point guard spot, with Jaka Lakovic (10.9 ppg., 3.6 apg.) and Roko-Leni Ukic (4.7 ppg., 43.5% 3FG) ready to face Cuneyt Erden (4.6 ppg., 43.5% 3FG) and Fikret Can Akin. Erden fired in 5 three-pointers in Barcelona, but he needs to get sharp shooters Drew Nicholas (14.7 ppg., 3.4 apg.) and Antonio Granger (5.8 ppg, 40.9% 3FG) involved if Efes wants to win this game. Nicholas and Granger are set to test their scoring skills against Navarro and Gianluca Basile (10.4 ppg., 42.9% 3FG), even when Barcelona has a strong second unit in Roger Grimau (3.3 ppg.) and Rodrigo De La Fuente (4 ppg., 45.5% 3FG), especially on defense. The battle in the paint will be interesting, as Barcelona is still missing Mario Kasun (11.9 ppg.) while Efes has started to base its offense in Marcus Haislip (13.9 ppg., 6.6 rpg., 1.9 bpg.) and Nikola Prkacin (6.6 ppg.). Haislip is a mismatch to almost every team due to his range and dynamism, but Barcelona may be the exception, since it has two mobile, athletic power forwards in Fran Vazquez (5.9 ppg., 1.3 bpg.) and Jordi Trias (7 ppg., 70.7% 2FG, 5 rpg.), who is having a career season. Prkacin will provide his experience and post moves to a solid Efes frontcourt in which Ermal Kuqo (9.3 ppg., 78.6% FT) offers range and strength while Kerem Gonlum (4.7 ppg., 4.3 rpg.) provides mobility and rebounds. Prkacin and Kuqo are ready to face Denis Marconato (6.2 ppg., 4.1 rpg.), while Gonlum and Haislip will have to keep an eye on Michalis Kakiouzis (7.3 ppg., 4.4 rpg.), always ready to score off the baseline or hit the corner triple. Barcelona is fighting for bigger goals, but expect a highly-motivated Efes trying to offer their fans a final home win.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007