By: Sam Meyerkopf / @euro_adventures
Group A has proven again and again to be the most evenly competitive group. We have one 4-2 team, three 3-3 teams, and two 3-4 teams after Wednesday night’s results. That’s about as tight as you can get.
Tonight we have a battle for first place on the line. If Cantu wins they’re in a tie with Caja Laboral and the winner of Fenerbahce Ulker vs. Olympiacos for first. If Caja takes home the W they will be in sole possession of the top spot.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, Cantu’s home crowd has been one of the best in the Euroleague. They have yet to lose a game in Pala Desio. Currently on a two game losing streak with both being road affairs, Cantu will be pumped for an outing at home.
Caja is in a bit of a lurch after the NBA stopped bickering and decided to end the lockout. They will soon be without their best post player in Kevin Seraphin (Teletovic still isn’t a true “post” player just yet) and newly signed Goran Dragic once David Stern and Derek Fischer get their perfect cursive on a new CBA agreement. Since they will be playing in this game though, both should figure prominently.
Milko Bjelica’s injury really hurts a frontline that was already relatively weak. Mirza Teletovic might not sub out of this game, while Seraphin and Dorsey (who might miss tonight’s game due to injury) will take their turns at center trying to slow down Giorgi Shermandini and the crew. Seraphin has proven to be a solid offensive option so far, but Dorsey has been injured most of the way into the season and has yet to dole out a real contribution.
The good news for Caja is that the backcourt has played well all year. Thomas Huertel has started to look confident and has a streaky jumper that can get hot at any time. Fernando San Emeterio is back to bowling over people (Week 6 MVP), Brad Oleson hasn’t missed a three in at least a couple weeks, and Pablo Prigioni has been as solid as ever. Anything Dragic can bring on this trip to Italy will be a bonus. All the perimeter players will have to pick up a lot of slack Thursday in enemy territory with Caja lacking post depth.
On the Cantu side of the ball the offense just hasn’t been there the last two road games. The team has come to lean on Vladimir Micov, Maarty Luenen, and Shermandini as its offensive core, but they’ve been real off recently. Going up against a weakened frontcourt, they should be able to take advantage.
Beyond all of the matchups and players to watch, the real reason to watch this game is to see where these two teams are really heading. Can Caja step up on the road and get into“Final Four contender” talk? Will Cantu punch back after this losing streak or be one of the casualties of a really tough Group C? Will Mirza Teletovic get back into MVP form after a recent slump and pull out some more fourth quarter magic away from Vitoria?
The only way you can find out is by watching, so buckle into one of the best basketball atmospheres in Europe Thursday evening for what sure is to be a show. Cantu’s last three games have all been within two points, so don’t turn this off til the final buzzer.