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League-leading Olympiacos is coming to Milan, Coach Messina: “We want to demonstrate we are better than our record”


The night will be dedicated to Vlado Micov, but it will be a special night on the court too, because the league-leading team will invade the Mediolanum Forum: Olympiacos has 18 wins alreay, one more than second-place Real Madrid who have played one game less. With +244, Olympiacos have also the best point differential in the entire competition, but in general its numbers are scary: 85.7 points per game (first place), 60.0 percent shooting from two (first place), 22.2 assists per game (first place), 8.1 steals per game (first place). Olympiacos has the EuroLeague’s top scorer of (Vezenkov), the most accurate player on two-point shooting (Fall), the best rebounder (Vezenkov), the best in assists (Sloukas), the best in steals (Walkup). Finally, of the 18 games it won, 12 have been won by double-digit margins and six of these by more than 20 points. Olimpia faces the Piraeus powerhouse coming from three consecutive EuroLeague wins (Baskonia, Red Star, Panathinaikos) which allowed Milan to move up slightly in the standings. Unfortunately, the weight of absences continues to be merciless. Kevin Pangos (10 games played out of 24), Shavon Shields (22nd missed game), Devon Hall and Gigi Datome (17 games missed), as well as Paul Biligha will be out against Olympiacos. It’s a prohibitive game on paper against a full-strength team, who is 9-4 on the road and have won nine of its last ten games. Olimpia will have to play with great competitive spirit and courage, with high concentration both on defense and offensively to try to make the game as competitive and uncertain as possible. Tip-off time is at 20:30 Italian time, on Friday.

THE REFEREES – Robert Lottermoser (Germany), Tomislav Hordov (Croatia), Carlos Cortes (Spain).

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We face the best team in the EuroLeague so far. Olympiacos is playing at a very high level thanks to a system that is good for highlighting their togetherness and the individual talent of their players, a system based on a solid and very aggressive defense and a continuous ball and players movement, offensively. For us it is a great opportunity to measure ourselves against the best opponent and try to demonstrate that we are better than our record indicates. It will be a special night also because our great Vlado Micov, after his retirement, will be among us to get a deserved standing ovation.”

OLYMPIACOS – The star of the team is undoubtedly Sasha Vezenkov, the Bulgarian who is a serious MVP candidate, with his 18.5 points per game, an incredible 66.1 percent from two and 42.6 percent from three-point range. He also grabs 7.4 rebounds per game. The other scorer is Kostas Sloukas, a point guard who has never started and consequently is perhaps the best sixth man in the EuroLeague, averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 assists. In the starting five, Coach Bartozakas normally uses Thomas Walkup as a point guard (7.7 points and 5.5 assists per game), Isaiah Canaan as a guard (6.1 points per game with 36.5 percent from three), Kostas Papanikolau as a forward (9.1 points per game, 46.8 percent from three, 63.8 percent from three) and Moustapha Fall at the center (7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, 76.2 percent from two). Off the bench, Olympiacos can count on guards Giannoulis Larentzakis (7.7 points per game, 40.2 percent three-point shooting) and Shaquielle McKissic (7.4 points per game, 71.1% from two); on forwards Alec Peters (5.4 points per game, 48.0 percent from three) and Joel Bolomboy (49 points per game, 60.6 percent from two); and Tarik Black (4.3 points per game) as a back-up center.

HISTORY Vs OLYMPIACOS – There have been 24 previous games between these two teams in the EuroLeague. Olimpia have won seven times and lost 17. In Piraeus the record is 11-2 for Olympiacos. Olimpia won in Piraeus on March 6, 2014, 88-86, with Keith Langford scoring 20 points in that game including the decisive three-pointer. The second win dates to the first leg of the 2018/19 season, in which Olimpia won with a resounding 99-75. There were 22 points by Mike James, 20 coming from Nemanja Nedovic and 19 from Vlado Micov. At home, Olimpia has won on January 29, 2009, 76-74, top scorer Luca Vitali with 15 points; during the 2013/14 season, when Olimpia won 81-51 with 29 points by Keith Langford; during the 2015/16 season in which it came back and prevailed 99-83 with 15 points and six rebounds by Davide Pascolo; during the 2018/19 season, 66-57 with 27 points scored by Mike James and 13 by Vlado Micov; and during the 2020/21 season in which it won 90-70 with 27 points by Kevin Punter, 16 by Malcolm Delaney and 14 by Sergio Rodriguez. There are two games prior to the existence of the EuroLeague. During the 1996/97 season, Olympiacos won 87-84 at home; Olimpia won in Milan 73-71. So, the overall record is 18-8 for the Greek team.

THE OLYMPIACOS CONNECTION – Christos Stavropoulos, Olimpia’s general manager, spent 19 years at Olympiacos, winning the EuroLeague twice, among other things. Both triumphs featured Kyle Hines who played for Olympiacos for two years before moving to CSKA Moscow. During his two years at Olympiacos, Hines played 53 EuroLeague games scoring 503 points and grabbing 286 rebounds. Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas also coached the same team under Stavropoulos. Kostas Sloukas won the EuroLeague at Fenerbahce playing with Gigi Datome; on the same team he had Nicolò Melli as a teammate for two years. At CSKA Moscow, Hines and Voigtmann have played along Joel Bolomboy and Alec Peters. Brandon Davies has played along Thomas Walkup at Zalgiris.

KYLE HINES NOTES – Kyle Hines is one more blocked shot away from reaching 300 for his career, the third player ever to cross that milestone. He has also crossed the 700-point scored with Olimpia barrier. Since he came to Milan, he has taken part of 100 Olimpia games out of 100 and is the fourth player ever to do so for Olimpia after Kaleb Tarczewski, Nicolò Melli and Vlado Micov. Hines has made more than 300 two-point field goals for Olimpia and now is one two-pointers away from Kaleb Tarczewski all-time first place (304).

NICOLO’ MELLI NOTES – Nicolò Melli is 17 defensive rebounds shy of 1.000 over his career. He can be the sixth player all-time to reach the milestone. Melli is also the Olimpia’s second-best rebounder ever with 613, 13 rebounds shy of Kaleb Tarczewski’s 626. He has also scored 828 points, four points away from Antonello Riva’s 832 and his all-time fifth place.