|A historic showdown with a big prize for one of the teams is set to take place in Tel Aviv, Israel, where Maccabi Electra welcomes Regal FC Barcelona in a key Group F game on Thursday at Nokia Arena. Maccabi has no chance to make it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs and faces its last Euroleague game this season - which will be an extra motivation for everyone. Meanwhile, Barcelona will win Group F and earn home-court advantage in the upcoming best-of-five playoffs if it beats Maccabi or if Alba Berlin downs Real Madrid in the Spanish capital also on Thursday. Maccabi faces severe injury problems around the baskets, as D'or Fischer is out with a face injury while Yaniv Green is questionable for this week's game. As such, Top 16 Week 5 co-MVP Charles Gaines and Lior Eliyahu are set to see extended playing time, while Omri Casspi may also see some minutes at power forward. Barcelona offers a deep, versatile frontcourt ready to make the most out of Maccabi's absences. Ersan Ilyasova and Daniel Santiago are set to start against Gaines and Eliyahu, while Fran Vazquez and David Andersen are ready to come off the bench to provide athleticism and versatility. Two of the best scorers in Euroleague Basketball history are ready to battle each other, as Marcus Brown of Maccabi Electra faces a key matchup against Regal FCB superstar Juan Carlos Navarro. Marcus Brown and Casspi are surrounded by experienced veterans made for games like this, such as Tal Burstein and Derrick Sharp. Casspi has a big test against small forward Lubos Barton. Meanwhile, Brown may face defensive stopper Roger Grimau while trying to outscore Navarro. Gianluca Basile will play a key role for Barcelona due to his unlimited shooting range and outstanding defensive skills. The point guard battle will be interesting, as Maccabi is deep in this position with team leader Carlos Arroyo and explosive playmaker Dee Brown. Arroyo hopes to make the most out of his creativity and open court skills against Victor Sada. Dee Brown will try to use his quickness and speed against Jaka Lakovic and Andre Barrett. Barcelona must get its frontcourt involved and put Gaines and Eliyahu into foul trouble to dominate the game. Maccabi, backed by an outstanding crowd, needs Marcus Brown and Arroyo to play an outstanding game and to lock the defensive boards to create opportunities in transition. An electric atmosphere promises to charge up this game between rivals from the opening tip.
Regal FC Barcelona
- Guard Marcus Brown needs 8 more points to become the first player in Euroleague Basketball history to reach the 2,500-point mark for his career.
- Marcus Brown once played 50 minutes – every minute of a double-overtime loss for Efes Pilsen against Barcelona in an October 2002 loss to Barcelona.
- Guard Tal Burstein is closing in on 1,000 points for his Euroleague Basketball career. He enters this week’s game against Barcelona with 991 points in 139 career games. He also needs just 2 more three-pointers to reach 100 for his Euroleague career.
- Burstein played one of the best games of his Euroleague career on the road at Barcelona in December 2005. Burstein recorded 24 points and a 32 index rating in 39 minutes – all Euroleague career highs in a 78-88 Maccabi win.
- Big man Charles Gaines will face a former teammate, Lubos Barton, this week. They played side by side for DKV Joventut Badalona in the 2006-07 season.
- Maccabi qualified for the 2008 Final Four by eliminating Barcelona 2-1 in the Quarterfinals Playoffs. Only four Maccabi players from that series – Tal Burstein, Omri Casspi, Lior Eliyahu and Derrick Sharp – are still on the team.
- Omri Casspi had one of the best games of his young career last season in Game 2 of the Quarterfinal Playoffs in Barcelona. He recorded the only double-double of his Euroleague career with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He set career highs with 8 defensive rebounds, 10 total rebounds, 30 minutes played and an index rating of 27.
- Barca has won 12 consecutive home games dating back to the end of the regular season last year.
- Guard Juan Carlos Navarro has made at least 1 three-pointer in nine straight games. He is shooting 44.2% from downtown over that stretch.
- Guard Gianluca Basile is 2 assists shy of becoming just the eighth player in Euroleague Basketball history to reach the 400-assist mark for his career.
- Basile recorded his Euroleague career-high of 34 points in Barcelona’s 83-74 win over Maccabi in Game 2 of last season’s Quarterfinal Playoffs.
- Forward Fran Vasquez has recorded four different career highs against Maccabi, all of them in the quarterfinals series last season. He grabbed 8 defensive rebounds in Game 2 and had 7 offensive rebounds, 13 total rebounds and played 38 minutes in Game 3.
- Center David Andersen matched his season high with 22 points against Real Madrid last week.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009