Two classic Euroleague teams will face off with more intrigue than meets the eye when Winterthur FCB hosts Panathinaikos in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday. Barcelona is second in Group F (3-2) no matter what and the Greens (5-0) first. Barcelona already knows it will play Unicaja in the Quarterfinal Playoffs while Panathinaikos will find out on Wednesday whether it will go against either Benetton or Dynamo Moscow. These teams have a history together and both hope to meet again after Wednesday, specifically at the Final Four in Athens. Panathinaikos already beat Barcelona 102-82 in their first Top 16 meeting behind 24 points from Sani Becirovic (10.1 ppg., 80.3% FT) and 17 from Dimitris Diamantidis (9.1 ppg., 44.4% 3FG, 4.2 apg.). Both players highlight a deep Panathinaikos backcourt that laso features sharp shooter Tony Delk (9.1 ppg.), former Barcelona playmaker Milos Vujanic (4.8 ppg.), veteran team captain Fragiskos Alvertis (3.4 ppg.) or shooting guard Nikos Hatzivrettas (8.8 ppg., 43.6% 3FG). Both Alvertis and Dusan Sakota (3.3 ppg.) are expected to see extended playing time, since Ramunas Siskauskas (9.6 ppg., 45.3% 3FG) remains sidelined for the Greens with injury. Diamantidis will have an elite matchup against former Panathinaikos playmaker Jaka Lakovic (10.9 ppg., 40% 3FG), while Becirovic and Delk will test their scoring skills against Juan Carlos Navarro (17.2 ppg., 42.3% 3FG, 2.9 apg.), who leads the Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy standings. Three-point threats Roko-Leni Ukic (4.8 ppg., 40.7% 3FG) and Gianluca Basile (9.9 ppg., 42.4% 3FG), as well as defensive stopper Rodrigo De La Fuente (4.2 ppg., 44% 3FG), round a deep Barcelona backcourt. The battle in the paint will also be interesting, even when Mario Kasun (11.9 ppg., 87.5% FT) is once again sidelined for Barcelona. As such, Denis Marconato (6.3 ppg., 65.2% 2FG) and Fran Vazquez (6.3 ppg., 1.3 bpg.) will share playing time at the center spot, with Michalis Kakiouzis (7 ppg., 88.9% FT) and Jordi Trias (6.9 ppg., 68.4% 2FG, 5.1 rpg.) doing so at power forward. Marconato and Vazquez will have a tough matchup against Mike Batiste (13.4 ppg., 67.9% 2FG, 6.6 rpg.) and Dejan Tomasevic (6.2 ppg., 4.9 rpg.), while Trias is set to have a big battle against Demos Dikoudis (8.5 ppg., 65.3% 2FG, 3.6 rpg.), who has been unstoppable lately, and Kostas Tsartsaris (8.2 ppg., 5.1 rpg.). Players like Sakota, Robertas Javtokas (2.8 ppg.) or even Dimitris Papanikolaou might see extended playing time for Panathinaikos since the outcome of this group is clear. Wednesday's games will not affect the standings, but it will be another chance to measure each other at a critical point in the season, when even a meaningless loss can hurt a team's momentum.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007