In a final Group A game between teams going different directions afterwards, Olympiacos hopes to finish as high as possible when it hosts last-place RheinEnergie in Pireaus, Greece on Thursday. Olympiacos (9-4) has the chance to finish second in this group if it wins and Efes Pilsen (8-5) beats Dynamo Moscow (9-4). In that case, it will also join the four top seeds in the Top 16 Draw next Monday as the best second-place finisher in the competition. Nevertheless, Olympiacos will be fourth if a three-way tie involving Efes and Dynamo takes place. To prevent that and finish at least third, the Reds need to beat RheinEnergie (2-11), which has no chance to reach the Top 16 and will fight for the pride of a prestigious road win in the final game of its debut Euroleague season. RheinEnergie reaches this game with three key players doubtful to see minutes, as Ronnie Burrell (13.1 ppg., 6.3 rpg.), Mlajden Sljivancanin (5.8 ppg.) and Johannes Strasser (60% 3FG) continue to nurse injuries. As such, Demond Mallet (12 ppg.) is set to lead his team again after becoming the German League all-star MVP this weekend. He will find plenty of help in both wings, as Devin Green (11 ppg.), Immanuel McElroy (9.7 ppg., 63.4% 2FG) and Aleksandar Nadjfeji (9.4 ppg.) will be ready to shine in their last Euroleague game of the season. Mallet will have an elite matchup against Scoonie Penn (12.2 ppg., 3.7 apg.), while Green and McElroy will try to play physical against Alex Acker (15.5 ppg., 6.8 rpg.), Henry Domercant (12.5 ppg., 44.8% 3FG) and Manolis Papamakarios (3.2 ppg.). Christos Harissis (2.6 ppg.) is also expected to see extended playing time, as Arvydas Macijauskas will not be ready for this game. The Reds' main concern will be slowing center Marcin Gortat (11 ppg., 5.8 rpg.), who has been unstoppable lately. If Burrell is not ready to play, both Gortat and Guido Grunheid (2.8 ppg.) will have to step up with some help from Janar Talts (2.8 ppg.) and Nadjfeji. Without Sofoklis Schortsianitis (6.6 ppg.), who is still sidelined, Olympiacos counts on Ryan Stack (5.2 ppg.) and Andrija Zizic (13.3 ppg., 84% FT) to stop Gortat, as well as Panos Vasilopoulos (5.9 ppg.) and a very productive Giannis Bourousis (8.6 ppg., 4.3 rpg.) coming off the bench. The Reds are the heavy favourites in this game, but RheinEnergie hopes to battle to the end of its Euroleague season.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007