By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
As the season moves forward, things are getting more exciting! We are starting to understand what every Euroleague team can achieve and this time every result count for the first time, because the two Top 16 groups will be defined according to the final standings of the regular season without a draw. And if Fenerbahce wants to finish on top of its regular season group, they have to win this week.
Eurohoops game of the week: Fenerbahce/ Ulker – Real Madrid
Only four games will be played on Friday for the 3rd gameday, eight will be held on Thursday and once more Istanbul is the place to be. Having a 2-0 record Fenerbahce/ Ulker hosts Real Madrid after its defeat at Moscow last week and the tough Saturday win against CB Canarias in Liga Endesa with Jaycee Carroll doing all the hard work and Rudy Fernandez sealing the victory.
“Iron man” Bo McCalebb is expected to play after spraining his ankle at Ljubljana and this week’s game could be decided at its tempo. Real will try to run and get points at transition in order to win. In a slow pace game, even though Fener is still a “new” team, the hosts seem to be more effective. Both teams are producing big numbers in offense (85+) , Fener shoots better at three pointer and Real dominates the offensive boards.
Eurohoops’ prediction is in slight favor of the hosts, provided that McCalebb, who has 17 ppg, proves to be 100% ready to play. Rudy Fernandez has a little bit better average (19 ppg), but also 13 minutes more on the court, because of American guard’s injury last week during the game against Olimpija.
HONORABLE MENTION: There are many other interesting games. In Milan, there is a clear favorite against guest Caja Laboral and if the host team, EA7 Armani Milano, prevails, it would be interesting to see how the unit of coach Dusko Ivanovic will react after a 0-3 start in the Euroleague season. French Champion Chalon will try to defend its home court against Maccabi Tel Aviv and Euroleague champion Olympiacos will try to do the same against unbeaten Zalgiris Kaunas.
Under the microscope: Cantu
The Italian team was the most pleasant surprise of last season’s Euroleague and earned universal respect across the old continent. After two gamedays, Cantu is the only team without a win in group A and the good game against Panathinaikos helped only the moral of the club. The question now is can the Italians beat Khimki at their home court? Cantu did impress at the qualifying round, but now has its back against the wall already. This Friday’s game is a big test for coach Andrea Trinchieri and his players. They will have to show character, better shooting percentage, resilience and maybe some new ideas on the court. And above all, American guard Jerry Smith should rise to the occasion, something he hasn’t done yet.
The unkown war: Nemanja Nedovic vs Partizan
Lietuvos Rytas’ 21 years old Serbian guard is a future investment, but on Thursday he will have an extra motive to play good against Partizan. Nedovic is no stranger to the Serbian champions, because he was a player of their hated rival, Crvena Zvezda. Nedovic’s old team used to lose from Partizan, although he played well in those games. Now ,he has the chance to take a small revenge and at the same time give to Crvena Zvezda’s fans a reason to smile.
The questions: Prokom and Unicaja
Last week everybody wanted to see if Zalgiris was for real and could win away from Kaunas. The Lithuanias did it with a win against Caja Laboral. This time there are two simular questions…Can Prokom get it’s first win for the season at its home court against Alba Berlin, or the Germans will continue to turn heads with a 3-0 record? And what about Unicaja? After dropping seven (!) straight games at home, can Malaga finally smile? We will have to wait and see what’s Siena’s opinion on that matter.
Numbers that counts!