There will be much at stake when AX Milan hosts Fenerbahce on Thursday night in the fashion capital. Milan can clinch a playoff berth with a win and some help from others, but a loss would see the Italian champs sink into a quagmire with a handful of other teams seeking the final playoff spots in Round 30. Milan only controls its destiny if it wins both of its remaining games. Fenerbahce has already clinched a playoff berth and home-court advantage in said playoffs. Another win would secure the top overall spot in the standings for Coach Zeljko Obradovic's men.
In their previous meeting
Fenerbahce has won nine in a row against Milan, the most recent of which was a 92-85 decision in Round 12 in December. Marko Guduric paced Fenerbahce with 20 points and Jan Vesely added 17 points. Joffrey Lauvergne chipped in 15 points for the winners. Mike James did all he could with a then career-high 31 points, including 6 three-pointers and 6 assists. Arturas Gudaitis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas both added 13 points in the loss. James led Milan on a late rally to cut a 12-point deficit to 2, but a pair of threes by Guduric helped put the game on ice.
The play different positions and are unlikely to meet much aside from when the former challenges the latter in the paint, but no shortlist for either EuroLeague MVP candidates or most-spectacular player can be complete without both Milan guard Mike James and Fenerbahce big man Jan Vesely. They are ranked first and third, respectively, this season in performance index rating and impact the game whenever they are on the court. When they do face off, it is a matchup of greats.
Keys to victory: Milan
Milan has allowed opponents to score at least 90 points in more than half its games so far this season and despite its great offensive prowess is only 4-11 when that happens. Fenerbahce has reached 90 on seven occasions this season and won each time. Accordingly, Milan may not want to play at a breakneck pace, since Fenerbahce may be able to stick with it. However, in a slower game, Milan may be able to use its size in the paint against Fenerbahce, which is ranked 14th in rebounding (30.5 rpg.) and the foul-drawing abilities of Mike James, Nemanja Nedovic and Vladimir Micov to get the Fenerbahce defenders in trouble.s
Keys to victory: Fenerbahce
Fenerbahce's iron defense has allowed the fewest points (75.3) in the league this season, but now faces the league's leading scorer, Mike James (20.4 ppg.). Fenerbahce's defense has been successful not because it targets the opponent's best weapons, but because it limits scoring opportunities for the entire team. However, no defense has stopped James all season. If Coach Obradovic has something up his sleeve to neutralize James, Fenerbahce would be in great shape.