|The o2 World in Berlin, Germany, is ready to host its first Top 16 game ever just three months away from the Final Four in this very same arena, as Alba welcomes Real Madrid on Thursday in a highly anticipated Group F showdown. Alba needs to bounce back from its loss against Maccabi Electra in the Top 16 opener while Madrid looks for its second win after rallying to down archrival Regal FC Barcelona last week. Madrid is facing severe injury problems at point guard, as starting playmaker Raul Lopez is sidelined while Pepe Sanchez did not play against Barcelona last week. As such, Sergio Llull is ready to become Madrid's fulltime point guard, with Sanchez and scoring ace Louis Bullock offering some help. Llull will face a physical point guard in Steffen Hamann, who shares the playmaker duties with Rashad Wright. Alba will be most concerned with stopping Bullock, one of the best shooters in the competition. Bullock shares minutes at the wings with athletic forward Quinton Hosley, three-point threat Alex Mumbru and Marko Tomas, who is set to see extended playing time due to the circumstances. Bullock will test his shooting skills against Julius Jenkins. Hosley has a critical matchup against Immanuel McElroy, which could be one of the keys to this game. Casey Jacobsen, another three-point specialist, must be ready for a shootout against Mumbru. The battle in the paint may be the biggest key to this game. Alba relies on Ansu Sesay and Adam Chubb as its main references, especially since center Patrick Femerling is out. Dragan Dojcin and Aleksandar Nadjfeji will be ready to come off the bench for Alba. Chubb has the tough mission to guard Felipe Reyes, while Sesay is ready for a big matchup against another left-handed power forward, Jeremiah Massey. Axel Hervelle and Tomas Van den Spiegel will play a key role in Madrid's rotation. Madrid must play with high intensity and stop McElroy to add its first road win in this group. Alba must get the crowd involved to generate a strong basketball atmosphere, as well as trying to put pressure on Llull and Sanchez. The pressure will be on the hosts, who will find themselves in a deep hole if they lose to fall to 0-2. But Berlin has risen to the occasion before and could do so again in this special arena.
- Guard Immanuel McElroy has scored in double-digits in his last six games.
- Guard Casey Jacobsen has made at least 1 three-pointer in six straight Euroleague games. He is shooting 43.3% from downtown in that stretch.
- Head coach Luka Pavicevic has used the same starting five – Steffen Hamann, Immanuel McElroy, Casey Jacobsen, Ansu Sesay and Adam Chubb – in 10 out of 11 Euroleague games this season.
- Guard Louis Bullock scored a season-high 18 points last week against Regal FC Barcelona.
- Big man Felipe Reyes needs 3 more steals to reach 100 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Olympic silver medallists Felipe Reyes, Raul Lopez and Alex Mumbru combined for 19 points in a 59-72 victory over Germany at the Olympic Games in Beijing last summer. Alba Berlin’s Steffen Hamann and Patrick Femerling both played for Germany in that game.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009