The second half of the EuroLeague regular season begins in Berlin, where Olimpia completes an entire week spent “on the road”, starting what will be the first “double game” week of 2023 (Zalgiris Kaunas will be in Milan on Friday). Olimpia is 4-5 on the road and will try to bring its record back to 50 percent after the defeat in Athens. Alba, after ten consecutive defeats, won the last two games, in Villeurbanne first and then against Baskonia at home. In other words, after a trying time, Alba has recovered and is now heralded in excellent condition (during the weekend it won in Munich) with its deep roster and an offense that produces 81.4 points per game pushing high on pace and transition opportunities. Olimpia lost in Piraeus but has won three of its last four games. In the previous three double rounds it has achieved three wins and three losses, winning twice when playing only on the road and losing twice when playing only at home. Obviously, the injured Shavon Shields, Kevin Pangos and Gigi Datome will not be available in Berlin either. The team from Naples moved directly to Germany.
REFEREES – Tomislav Hordov (Croatia), Joseph Bissang (France), Saulius Racys (Sweden).
COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “Alba Berlin is a team in very good shape, as shown by the latest results. They play well, are organized and deep. After three consecutive win’s and a streat of good games in the Italian league, we have taken a step back. To try to win in Berlin it will be essential to express a quality of play on both sides of the court much higher than that of the last couple of games, limit turnovers and try to maintain control of rebounds “
NICOLO’ MELLI – “It is a road game against a team that, after experiencing some trying times, came back to its old form, a team well organized, deep and competitive. After three wins we lost in Piraeus and now we need to play 40 minutes of total attention and intensity at both ends of the floor. I anticipate a close game and the small details, as always happens in the EuroLeague, will be the difference makers.”
ALBA BERLIN – Seven players average more than 20 minutes per game, and the rotation often extends beyond ten players. The main feature of Alba is this: it has a proven “platoon system” in which probably the only essential player is Luke Sikma, a power forward who is among the top ten passers in the EuroLeague. Sikma, son of 1980s NBA star Jack, averages 8.1 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. The leading scorer is guard Jaleen Smith (12.8 points per game, 37.7 percent from three) who played in the European Championships with the Croatian National Team. The point guards are Maodo Lo (10.1 points, 2.8 assists per game), a German international, and Tamir Blatt (9.0 points and 5.0 assists per game), the son of Coach David Blatt, an Israeli international. In addition to Smith, the Italian Gabriele Procida (5.6 points per game) and Malte Delow (4.3 points per game) are used at the shooting guard position. At the small forward Alba has the Israeli Yavel Zoosman (6.6 points per game, 58.8 percent from two), Louis Olinde (8.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 50.0 percent shooting from three) and the shooter Tim Schneider (66.7 percent from three). Among the power forwards, in addition to Sikma, there are Yanni Wetzell (5.4 points, 3.0 rebounds per game) and Ben Lammers (5.9 points per game, 40.0 percent from three) who is an excellent shooter and can also play at the center spot. At the number 5 position the most used player is the German international Johannes Thiemann (9.3 points, 4.6 rebounds on average, 60.0 percent from two), but normally the starter is the 2.25 mt tall Christ Koumadjie, who produces 6.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in less than 15 minutes of playing time and he has 72.1 percent from the field.
HISTORY VS. ALBA BERLIN – During the EuroLeague modern version, Olimpia has faced Alba Berlin seven times, with a 4-3 record that becomes 5-4 after including the 2015/16 Eurocup. Last season, the two teams won one game each, while in Milan this season Alba prevailed after an overtime. The history between these two teams’ dates back to 1995 when they faced each other in the Korac Cup final series. Berlin won the home game 95-87 and forced a tie in Milan, 87-87, to get the first European trophy for a German team. Olimpia and Alba met also during the 196/97 EuroLeague when Alba won in Milan 91-80, but Olimpia got its revenge prevailing in Berlin 78-68. Considering all the games, the record is 6-6-1.
ALBA CONNECTION – Maodo Lo played at Bamberg with Nicolò Melli and together they won the German championship. Deshaun Thomas at Maccabi played alongside Yavel Zoosman. Gabriele Procida, in his first season in Berlin, last season was playing for Fortitudo Bologna along Tommaso Baldasso.
GAME NOTES – Brandon Davies has had 20 assists over the last four games, 5.0 on average. Nicolò Melli has started in all 17 Olimpia games (only 12 players have always started so far in the league) and in all the last 49 Milan games in which he was able to play. Melli with 1.271 rebounds for his career is now the 11th ever: a Top 10 spot is 16 rebounds away (Mirsad Turkcan with 1.287). He is also 16 points away from reaching the 800-point threshold with Olimpia. Billy Baron has averaged 17.2 points per game in Olimpia’s six wins. Kyle Hines is three blocks away from 300 for his career. Since he is in Milan, in the EuroLeague he has played 93 games out of 93.