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Olimpia on league-leading Efes’ home court, Messina: “We’ll try to stay close through the fourth quarter”


“The Road Trip Part II”. Olimpia left Milan today and embarked again on a sequence of five consecutive road games including the Italian league. This week is somehow an historical one, because it marks the first time that Olimpia will play a double-round week entirely on the road. It’s the same one-two punch that Olimpia faced during the first leg, with one win and one loss in a three-day span. Olimpia will play league-leading Efes in Istanbul on Tuesday and Maccabi in Tel Aviv on Thursday. Olimpia has never won in Istanbul against Efes, a streak that reached 13 games, and some of them were bizarre like in 2014 when Efes won on a buzzer-beating Hail Mary full-court shot made by Zoran Planinic.

OLIMPIA – After practicing at Mediolanum Forum in the morning, flew to Istanbul and will go directly to Tel Aviv on Wednesday. Right now, Olimpia is second in three-point shooting defense and third in assists allowed, but Efes will feature at this time one of the most powerful scorer in the continent, Shane Larkin, who’s averaging 20.5 points per game, third overall, and is a 49.1% three-point shooter. After Nick Calathes and before facing Scottie Wilbekin, Sergio Rodriguez will matchup against another of the EuroLeague top point-guard. Larkin had been the last round EuroLeague’s MVP. Ironically, this is the fifth time that the reigning MVP will play Olimpia, after Nando De Colo, Tornike Shengelia, Mike James and Nick Calathes. Fortunately, Olimpia is 3-1 so far against the league MVP. Olimpia will play without Riccardo Moraschini and Jeff Brooks, both injured. Nemanja Nedovic, who made his return in the Italian league last Sunday, will be available.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We are going to play on a very difficult court, against a team who’s playing a terrific brand of basketball, mixing the perimeter game of the guards, especially Shane Larkin, and the inside game of Tibor Pleiss. They are a confident team, so our goal is to keep improving while paying great attention to our transition defense, particularly against their pick and roll. Since we are coming from a couple of very good game, we want to build on them, stay as close as possible until the fourth quarter in order to try to do do something. Unfortunately we will miss Riccardo Moraschini and Jeff Brooks. These are huge losses: Moraschini was in excellent shape and showed that he can help us a lot and Brooks is a very important player for us.”

EFES ISTANBUL – Efes is 15-1 in the Turkish league. It has won 11 of the last 12 EuroLeague games and the only loss was at home against CSKA by one single point. One of three losses came in the opening night against Barcelona, but Shane Larkin was not available. Efes took revenge against Barcelona in the last round in spite of playing without Vasilje Micic and Bryant Dunston. Both are questionable for the Olimpia game. Efes recovered the French power forward Adrien Moerman, who was a terrific player for the team that made it to the final last season. In his power forward position, the team added during the summer Chris Singleton and Alec Peters, who won the EuroLeague with CSKA. Generally, Efes plays with two creative ball handlers, Larkin and Micic or the explosive French, Rodrigue Beaubois. At the small forward spot, Kruno Simon and James Anderson split minutes. While at the 4-spot, Coach Ataman has now three different options, with Dunston out, Tibor Pleiss and the emerging Sertac Sanli has manager the center position.

THE REFEREES – Miguel Angel Perez (Spain), Sasa Pukl (Slovenia), Medih Difallah (France).

THE EFES CONNECTIONKrunoslav Simon spent two years in Milan, winning one Italian championship, two Italy uips and one Supercup. He’s in his third year in Istanbul. Sergio Rodriguez’s won the EuroLeague with CSKA defeating Efes in the final game. Alec Peters was among his teammates. Vasilje Micic was Nemanja Nedovic’s teammate with the Serbian National Team at the Rio 2016 Olympics: together, they conquered the silver medal. Bryant Dunston spent time with Olympiacos Piraues with the actual Olimpia general manager, Christos Stavropoulos. Vlado Micov was coache by Efes’ head man, Ergin Ataman, with the GAlatasaray Istanbul and was a teammate there of Tibor Pleiss.