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Another big night in Milan, Coach Messina: “Vitoria is a physical, aggressive team, it’s going to be a hard game”


Olimpia stays in Milan for its next EuroLeague game, while Kirolbet Vitoria is coming to town, on Thursday. It’s one of the most experienced team in this kind of competition. Indeed, Baskonia participated in the only EuroLeague final series: in 2001 it lost 3-2 against Virtus Bologna. Ettore Messina was sitting on the Italian bench, Luis Scola was the young emerging star of the Basque team. For Scola it will be a special night against his European original team, the one he left in 2007 to go to the NBA. The big difference between 2007 Scola and 2019 Scola is that he is now an excellent three-point shooter (8-for-18 so far).

OLIMPIA – Milan enters this game coming off five consecutive wins. Despite the 4-for-22 inaugural night, Olimpia is now leading the league in three-point shooting, 44.1%, and at the same time it’s the best team in defending the three (30.7% allowed). Olimpia is also second for fewer assists allowed (only Maccabi is doing better). Last week’s win over Barcelona was generated by a spectacular fourth period and a big boost from the 12,222 people that attended the game at the Mediolanum Forum.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We face a team coming off a commanding win over Bayern Munich, a physical team featuring a player like Toko Shengelia, who is a two-time EuroLeague Player of the Week. Vitoria is an aggressive defensive team, capable to set the tempo of the game, and it is also a dangerous three-point shooting team. For us it is going to be a difficult game, and is also a very important one, against a rival for trying to get into the playoff picture.”

THE OPPONENT – Kirolbet Vitoria is 3-3 in the EuroLeague, but last week destroyed Bayern by 33 points and is a plus-48 team in point-differential. Right now, it is the best rebounding team in the league (39.3 per game, seven more than their opponents), first in offensive rebounds and points allowed, the only one allowing less than 70 points per game (69.3). Youssapha Fall is the best shot-blocker so far, Michael Eric is sixth and Tornike Shengelia is 12th and the team is the best in this category too, with 5.67 blocked shots per game. Fall is a 2.21 mt center acquired from Strasbourg and is grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game. The star of the team remains Toko Shengelia, who’s averaging 18.3 points per game, and is the best in the Personal Index Rating. Luca Vildoza, who was one of the Argentine national team point guards, during the silver medal run at the World Cup, made the last 24 free throws (Patricio Garino is riding a 16-free throw made streak, too). Matt Janning, a veteran, has made at least one three in 12 of his last 13 appearances. Shavon Shields didn’t play in the last Spanish league game against Real Madrid (a close game that Gabriel Deck won for Real on a last-possession three), but he’s started in all the six EuroLeague games played so far. Among the perimeter players, Nik Stauskas is a Canadian who comes from the NBA, a great shooter, and Pierria Henry is a guard who played in Kazan last season.

THE SCOLA CONNECTION – Luis Scola played in Vitoria for seven years, with three EuroLeague Final Four plus a playoff final series. In Vitoria, he won the 2002 Spanish title, the King’s Cup in 2002, 2004 and 2006. In 2005 and 2006 he won the Spanish Super Cup. Combined, he played 144 EuroLeague games with Vitoria. Scola has been coached by Baskonia’s current coach Velimir Perasovic during his last two seasons in Vitoria.

SCOLA ON VITORIA – “I have always had a special connection with Vitoria, I have been there for many years and no doubt they have been fundamental years for my growth as a person, as a player too, but above all as a person. My first children were born there when I lived in Vitoria. And that’s the place that gave me the chance to do things that I didn’t even imagine I could do. This is why Vitoria will always be a special place for me.”

THE REFEREES –  Robert Lottermoser (Germany), Matej Boltauzer (Slovenia), Hugues Thepenier (France).

MISCELLANEA – Sergio Rodriguez – the EuroLeague Player of the Month – has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight games and has made at least one three-point shot in 12 of his last 13 games. Rodriguez enters this game tied with Milos Teodosic for fourth place all-time with 1,126 assists, and 12th all-time with 2,523 career points and needs only 1 more to catch Jaka Lakovic (2,524) for 11th place… Vlado Micov has made 17 consecutive free throws. He has made at least 1 three-pointer in eight straight games and has scored in double figures in seven of his last eight.