Euroleague Preview, Week 9
The Lavrinovic twins clash in Italy.
by Nick Gibson / @euro_adventures
The double helix has yielded some marvelous things in its time. It had a hand in inventing the wheel, fire, yo-yos and your instant queue on Netflix. It made the man who sliced the bread, the Henry who made the Ford and really, really strong dogs. But when these DNA patterns are duplicated, funny things happen. Take, for instance, twins. More specifically, twins who play basketball, and are abnormally large to boot. The same DNA that blesses them with the dual threat of size and coordination also has led to most of them attending the same schools, even once they have a choice. Instead of choosing new, separate worlds where nobody mixes up their names, they go to the same colleges and compete for playing time. Brook and Robin Lopez played at Stanford, Jason and Jarron Collins before them; Markieff and Marcus Morris are Jayhawking it together in Lawrence, KS; and David and Travis Wear not only went to North Carolina together, they even decided to pack their matching duffels and transfer to UCLA together.
Then there’s Ksistof and Darjus Lavrinovic. They’ve apparently had enough of the buddy-buddy act and now play in different countries — Ksistof in Italy with Siena and Darjus some miles east in Istanbul with Fenerbahçe Ülker. But despite their valiant efforts, the magnetic pull of that double helix landed the Lithuanian 7-footers together in Group C and this week, they’ll do battle once more. Darjus got the best of Ksistof the first time around, but I have a feeling this game will be different.
I’m (finally) rounding into form with a 9-3 Week 8, bringing my overall record to 45-27. Let’s dive into Week 9:
Zalgiris (5-3) vs. Caja Laboral (3-5)
Last year, Zalgiris ran through three coaches before Vladimir Romanov decided they could win the Lithuanian title without one. They tried, they failed, but it was fun as hell to watch. This season, Romanov’s trying to meet his coaching quota before the new year as Rimantas Grigas takes over for Aco Petrovic, the same Aco who has led them a 5-3 in the Euroleague — good for second place in Group A — and 9-0 in the LKL. Mad Vlad works in mysterious ways, but I’m only concerned with the guys in the green shirts, not the suits. Zalgiris.
*Maccabi Electra (7-1) vs. BC Khimki (3-5)
David Blu’s (Bluthenthal for us old timers) three catapulted Maccabi over the Russians when these two met in Week 4, but those sorts of heroics shouldn’t be necessary this Thursday; Blu and his pals have won their four home games by an average of 20.5 this season. Maccabi Electra.
Partizan (4-4) vs. Asseco Prokom (2-6)
If you wipe James Gist’s debut clean, his 18.8 average RKG has been the best among Euroleague bigs not named Joel Freeland. With Nathan Jawai and Jan Vesely by his side, Partizan should destroy the league’s most feeble frontcourt. Partizan.
Brose Baskets (2-6) vs. *Real Madrid (5-3)
With all of the spots locked up in Group B, Brose Baskets should go out and give Madrid an old fashioned, nothing-to-lose rattling. Beaten by the buzzer in early November by a D’Or Fischer lay-up, Brose knows they can close the deal in Bamberg against a Madrid team in mid-exhale. Brose Baskets.
*Lottomatica Roma (4-4) vs. *Unicaja (5-3)
Roma has been opportunistic this season, logging their four wins against Group B’s weak sisters of the poor, but Unicaja’s no slouch. The Spaniards’ last three contests have ended with scores in the 70′s and margins of 5 or fewer. They get this one 76-72. Unicaja.
Montepaschi Siena (7-1) vs. Fenerbahçe Ülker (6-2)
Montepaschi lost the November 10 match-up when nobody came to Bo McCalebb’s assistance. Now Ksistof Lavrinovic is pumping and Malik Hairston has sidled up beside Rimantas Kaukenas to do a little damage on the wing. The newer, deeper Siena will be too much at home. Montepaschi Siena.
Lietuvos Rytas (2-6) vs. Regal FC Barcelona (6-2)
Three weeks ago Terence Morris had 15 points. Eight days later Boniface N’Dong duplicated that feat. Then last week, Fran Vazquez had his most complete game of the year with 11, 9 boards and a pair of blocks. All the while Ricky Rubio is getting cozy with the rock in his mitts, registering his first double-double of the year in Week 8′s win at Fenerbahçe Ülker. Rotational dominance has always been Xavi Pascual’s thing. So who’s it going to be this week? Barcelona.
Cholet Basket (3-5) vs. Cibona (0-8)
Leon Radosevic, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rok Stipcevic better be appealing to some higher power playing the way they are for no pay. They’ll need some divine creature to interfere if they want to stay away from 0-9. Cholet.
Efes Pilsen (4-4) vs. *Panathinaikos (6-2)
Efes hasn’t lost a home game all season, and they looked suspect without Igor Rakocevic last week in a loss at Milano. Panathiaikos is banged up themselves with Aleks Maric and Mike Batiste on the mend, although Antonis Fotsis looked very competent last week in his season’s best showing. Panthinaikos’ most dangerous weapon outside of Dimitris Diamantidis is Romain Sato, but if Velimir Perasovic puts Kerem Gonlum on him then they should squeak by at home. Efes Pilsen.
*Union Olimpija (5-3) vs. CSKA Moscow (2-6)
Is anyone out there still doubting Olimpija’s legitimacy? If so, I suggest you buy in. Jure Zdovc deserves serious recognition for the way he’s blended the aged (Kenny Gregory), the aging (Kevinn Pinkney, Vlado Ilievski), and the ageless (Goran Jagodnik) to come away with a consistently overachieving core. Participants in eight straight EL Final Fours, CSKA needs this win just to stay alive in the Top 16 race. If JR Holden dishes 7 assists again then CSKA has a chance, but Dmitriy Shakulin isn’t yet ready to lead his troops into Stozice Arena under such pressure. Union Olimpija.
AJ Milano (4-4) vs. Power Electronics Valencia (3-5)
Oleksiy Pecherov could’ve scored 23 points in his debut and rode off into the Tuscan sunset as the Euroleague’s Moonlight Graham, but his 7-footness and AJ Milano’s defective rebounding drive made it too tough for him to stay away. They eased the Stewie Griffin look alike back into their Italian League rotation this weekend and it should be all systems go as they try to bury Valencia in their rearview. AJ Milano.