|A key game for Top 16 survival in competitive Group D is also a classic Euroleague showdown, as Real Madrid welcomes Partizan to the Spanish capital on Thursday night. Both teams are part of a three-way tie with Panionios On Telecoms for second place in Group D, each with a 3-3 record, so it comes as no surprise to say that the winner will take a crucial step forwards to reach the next round. Partizan already beat Madrid 81-77 in Belgrade behind 18 points from Aleksandar Rasic. Madrid released center Lazaros Papadopoulos recently, but keeps star forward Felipe Reyes to lead a very solid frontcourt. Jeremiah Massey has undergone an adjustment period and is ready to complement Axel Hervelle at power forward, with center Venson Hamilton seeing limited playing time off the bench. Reyes is ready to have a key matchup against Novica Velickovic, but if he opts to open the court by playing away from the basket, Hervelle will be ready to step up on defense. Even though Partizan starts with giant Slavko Vranes, Stephane Lasme sees most playing time at center, so his matchup against Massey and Reyes will be one of the keys to this game. Up-and-coming forward Jan Vesely and Zarko Rakocevic will also take turns trying to stop Reyes. The point guard battle will be equally interesting, with Rasic and Petar Bozic seeing most playing time for Partizan. Madrid can offer as many as three playmakers, with pass-first genius Pepe Sanchez, creative point guard Raul Lopez or Sergi Lull, who can also be used at the off-guard spot to replace shooting ace Louis Bullock. Lopez will try to use his ball handling and quickness against Rasic in one of the key matchups in this game. Bullock will be the man to watch for Partizan, but Madrid has an advantage at small forward with Alex Mumbru and Quinton Hosley. Marko Tomas is recovered and already shined against Panionios, so expect an interesting matchup against Partizan’s star swingman Milenko Tepic. Bullock will test his scoring skills against streak shooter Uros Tripkovic, while Cedomir Vitkovac is ready to battle against Hosley and Mumbru. Madrid needs to get the crowd involved and to get Reyes and Massey involved, as well as making the most out of its advantage at small forward. Partizan must try to feed Lasme down low and expect a big game from Tepic. With some of the best players in Europe fighting for survival, the fans at Palacio Vistalegre will get a chance to witness dome true drama.
- Point guard Pepe Sanchez scored his Euroleague career-high of 20 points with Unicaja at Partizan in the regular season final of the 2006-07 season.
- Guard Louis Bullock achieved his Euroleague career-high in steals, 6, against Partizan in November 2005.
- Forward Alex Mumbru scored in double figures in both meetings against only two teams last season – Partizan and Lottomatica Roma. He averaged 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 assists against the Serbian champs last season.
- Guard Sergio Llull scored a season-high 19 points off the bench in the team’s game against Partizan in October.
- Forward Axel Hervelle recorded season highs of 12 points and 9 rebounds last week at Panionios.
- Marko Tomas matched his Euroleague career-high with 18 points last week at Panionios.
- Guard Milenko Tepic has made at least one three-pointer in 11 consecutive Euroleague games. The streak dates back to the Top 16 last season. He has made 22 triples in 50 attempts (44%) during the streak.
- Center Slavko Vranes needs one more blocked shot to reach 50 for his Euroleague career. He is one of only 10 players in Euroleague Basketball history to appear in at least 40 games and average more than one block per game.
- Vranes’s best game last season came against Real Madrid, when he recorded 7 points, 6 rebounds and 1 blocked shot in 14 minutes.
- The magic number for Partizan has been 80 points. The Serbian champs have won nine of the last 10 games in which they have scored at least 80.
- Sharpshoter Uros Tripkovic recorded the lone blocked shot of his Euroleague career at Real Madrid in January 2006. He blocked the shot of center Venson Hamilton.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008