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Olimpia will face Olympiacos and the Great Spanoulis in Athens, Messina: “Interior defense will be crucial”


Olimpia has played six home games out of 10 in the EuroLeague, but now a streak that includes three trips in four games is beginning. Friday (at 8.30pm Italian time) it will play at the “Peace and Friendship Arena” in Athens against Olympiacos. It’s a game full of meaning, because Olympiacos is the team where the current general manager Christos Stavropoulos spent 19 years of career. It is the team of Vassilis Spanoulis, who’s started the countdown towards becoming the EuroLeague All-Time leading scorer, it is the team that won the competition twice in this decade and finally won two of the last three games, the last one in Berlin by a 19 point margin. The two teams faced each other in Lucca during the preseason, but since then Olympiacos changed coach (David Blatt had to give up, replaced by his assistant Kestutis Kemzura), Mindaugas Kuzminskas  and Ethan Happ left, while the team added the veteran Taylor Rochestie (80 EuroLeague appearances with six different teams) and Willie Reed, a center who played 157 NBA games, but should be out due to a slight injury.

OLIMPIA – After last week’s tour de force, Olimpia gets back on the road to Athens and faces a weekend with two games in three days, the second one will be on Sunday against Reggio Emilia, in the Italian league. For Vlado Micov – in the previous round he has exceeded 2,000 points for his career – this is the game number 200 in the EuroLeague. Luis Scola has the chance to overtake Nikola Vujcic and climb to the number 7 spot in two-point field goals made (he is two field goals made away). But the most anticipated match-up is the one between Vassilis Spanoulis and Sergio Rodriguez, who combines for five EuroLeague championships and are the first and fourth ever for career assists. Another very hard match-up is for the bigs: Georgios Printezis is 35 years old, but he is on a six-game streak of scoring in double figures; Nikola Milutinov is the second-best rebounder (9.7 per game), and the best offensive rebounder with 4.1 on average. While, of course, Arturas Gudaitis is not yet available. Olimpia will not have Andrea Cinciarini because of flu-like symptoms.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “Regardless of what the standing says, Olympiacos is a very solid team, coming off a convincing win in Germany and is also the best EuroLeague team in terms of low-post game, because of Milutinov, Printezis and Rubit. On the other side, Spanoulis and Rochestie run one of the best pick and roll execution in the league. As a consequence, our inside defense will be fundamental in order to try to win this game”.

THE OPPONENT – Olympiacos can count on three Greek players of great credibility, in addition to the legendary Vassilis Spanoulis (3.8 assists per race), there are Georgios Printezis (12.1 points per game) and Kostas Papanikolau, an oversized forward that is also the team’s best three-point shooter (43.8%). Around them, Nikola Milutinov, who’s one of the most effective centers (10.3 points, 66.1% from the field) in the game and is also an extraordinary rebounder, and some quality Americans like Brandon Paul (10.0 points per game, a 41.2% three-point shooter), a terrifying athlete , power forward Augustine Rubit (he’s a 57.1% two-point shooter), Kevin Punter, and obviously the experienced Taylor Rochestie and the other guard Wade Baldwin, who played his best game in Munich last week (19 points).

MISCELLANEASergio Rodriguez has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 12 games, and he has made at least one three-point shot in 16 of his last 17 games. Vladimir Micov has made at least 1 three-pointer in 11 of his last 12 games. He has scored in double figures in 11 of his last 12 appearances and his next game will be his 200th. Michael Roll has made at least 1 three-pointer in eight straight games. Amedeo Della Valle has made 13 consecutive free throws and has made at least 1 three-pointer in five straight games. After missing two games with a minor injury, he will be available in Athens. Luis Scola ranks eighth all-time with 848 two-pointers made. Maccabi manager Nikola Vujcic is seventh with 850. Scola needs 1 offensive rebound to reach 300 for his career.