|A tough clash in the upper half of Group B takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Olympiacos visits Lietuvos Rytas on Wednesday. Olympiacos is tied with Unicaja for first place in Group B each with a 5-2 record. L. Rytas and Partizan are one win away at 4-3. Olympiacos will qualify with a victory if Efes Pilsen - fifth at 3-4 - loses against Unicaja. These teams met in the Pireaus, Greece, in early November, when Olympiacos downed L. Rytas 97-73 behind 20 points from Linas Kleiza. The Lithuanian native is expected to see plenty of minutes at power forward due to his shooting range, quickness and technique. Olympiacos will try to feed Sofoklis Schortsianitis down low when he is on the floor, running its offense through him, or going with Nikola Vujcic at center to improve its ball circulation. All-Euroleague big man Ioannis Bourousis will be the Reds' main reference in the paint and is ready for what could be a game-deciding battle against L. Rytas center Aron Baynes. Milko Bjelica will try to make the most out of his post skills and footwork against Kleiza and Panos Vasilopoulos. Meanwhile, Bourousis is set to use his size and deep range against Bjelica and Donatas Zavackas, a key player for L. Rytas at both ends. The point guard battle will be equally interesting, as October MVP Bojan Popovic leads L. Rytas, with Evaldas Dainys coming off the bench just for a few minutes. Olympiacos is very deep at point guard, with Milos Teodosic providing talent and court sense, Patrick Beverley is ready to run the floor with incredible athleticism and above all, former Euroleague MVP Theo Papaloukas leads the team in crunch time. L. Rytas, however, is quite deep at the wings, with several different options. Steponas Babrauskas provides intensity and physical skills off the bench. Martynas Gecevicius is having a career-best season due to his outstanding shooting and fearless attitude, while Arturas Jomantas is a hard-nosed defender with outstanding one-on-one skills. Jomantas has the difficult mission of shutting down Josh Childress, an incredible athlete and a natural mismatch. Gecevicius and Justas Sincia will test their shooting skills against Yotam Halperin and Kostas Papanikolaou, while Babrauskas will see playing time against Papaloukas or Beverley when Olympiacos plays twin point guards. L. Rytas must get Gecevicius and Baynes involved, as well as stopping Kleiza through Zavackas and Dejan Borovnjak. Olympiacos must run its offense through Papaloukas and Vujcic, trying to get Schortsianitis involved and play up-tempo. This promises to be an entertaining game and serious test for two talented teams looking ahead to bright seasons.
REFEREES: Juan Carlos Mitjana, Paolo Taurino, Emilio Perez Pizarro
Bojan Popovic and Olympiacos guard Milos Teodosic were teammates during the 2004-05 season at FMP.
Martynas Gecevicius has yet to miss a free throw in a Euroleague game, shooting 17 for 17 from the line in 25 career Euroleague appearances.
Gecevicius has made at least one three-pointer in 10 straight Euroleague games.
Head coach Rimas Kurtinaitis has named the same starting lineup – Popovic, Genevicius, Jomantas, Zavackas and Baynes – in six of his team’s seven games this season.
Donatas Zvackas had his best game of the season with 20 points, 3 assists and 4 steals – al season highs – last week against Entente Orleanaise.
Arturas Jomantas has a steal in each of his last five games.
Steponas Babrauskas scored a season-high 12 points in Week 3 against Olympiacos.
Milko Bjelica scored a season-high 16 points in Week 3 against Olympiacos.
Forward Linas Kleiza and Lietuvos Rytas swingman Arturas Jomantas were teammates this summer on the Lithuanian national team at EuroBasket 20009.
Kleiza, Jomantas and Steponas Babrauskas, also of L. Rytas, helped Lithuania to a silver medal at the 2003 World Under-19 Championships and a bronze medal at the 2004 European Under-20 Championships.
Kleiza has scored in double figures in seven straight Euroleague games.
Nikola Vujcic passed tied Tanoka Beard for ninth place on the Euroleague career offensive rebounding charts. He now has 247 offensive rebounds. He needs 1 more to reach Michalis Kakiouzis for eighth place.
Vujcic tied Aleksey Savrasenko for fourth place on the career blocked shots chart last week. They both have 115 career blocked shots.
Yotam Halperin has made his last 15 free throws.
Josh Childress set a career-high with 18 points in a Week 3 win over Lietuvos Rytas.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009