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A Monday Night in St. Petersburg, Messina: “We face one of the EuroLeague’s best organized teams”


A Monday Night dedicated to the EuroLeague. Olimpia (at 18.00 Italian time) makes up for the Round 5 games that had been suspended against Zenit St. Petersburg. It’s a game with big playoff implications. Olimpia has a 16-8 record, Zenit is 14-9. It is also crucial to remember that Olimpia won the first game in Milan by six. This make-up game effectively creates the 8th double-week round for Olimpia: in the previous seven Olimpia is 10-4 total, 5-2 in the first of the two games, 5-2 on the road. Zenit is fresh from a close win in Belgrade, by one point, with a decisive three-point shot made by the point guard Kevin Pangos. Before winning in Belgrade, Zenit had lost three consecutive games, but all of them on the road and against opponents belonging to the upper tier of the standing, Barcelona, ​​Milan and Fenerbahce. Now Zenit begins a series of four consecutive home games (the next will be with Valencia, Alba and Real Madrid) through which it could build a solid ranking. Note that Zenit has won nine road games and only lost three times at home, so its record is even better than it looks.

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We have a difficult game ahead. Zenit is one of the best organized team, offensively and defensively, of the entire EuroLeague. Xavi Pascual is a good friend and an excellent tactician, as he demonstrated during the Milan game when we struggled for the most part. Unfortunately, playing without Zach LeDay and Jeff Brooks will continue to be a big problem, we’ll try to overcome it by sharing minutes among other players, like we successfully did in the Maccabi game.”

VLADO MICOV – “We are in a good position, because we have a nice situation against most of the teams competing for a top spot, but this is one of the most important games on our schedule. That’s why we need to be very focused and be ready for the challenge”.

THE REFEREES – Dani Hierrezuelo (Spain), Matej Boltauzer (Slovenia), Elias Koromilas (Greece).

ZENIT – Point guard Kevin Pangos scored 25 points in Belgrade during the last game, going 5-for-6 from three, and had seven assists. On average he has 12.3 points per game and 6.3 assists, while shooting 37.2 percent from three. Austin Hollins normally starts as a guard in the line-up and he’s an athletic perimeter player, Mateusz Ponitka plays as a small forward (8.0 points, 4.7 rebounds per game, 57.7 percent from two), who in Belgrade snatched the offensive rebound that generated the decisive three by Pangos off a missed free throw. At power forward position, Coach Xavi Pascual starts left-handed Will Thomas (8.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 42.2 percent from three), and at center there is Arturas Gudaitis (10.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, 59.8 percent from two). Off the bench are coming shooters Billy Baron (44.0 percent from three), veteran KC Rivers (41.1 percent from three) and Andrey Zubkov (43.9 percent from three). Vitaly Fridzon (41.7 from three) and center Anton Pushkov are also part of the rotation. Compared to the game in Milan, Alex Poythress will be available again. He is an explosive player who is averaging 8.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Tarik Black, who was signed earlier in the season, has not yet made his debut.

HISTORY LESSON – Last year Olimpia won 73-72 in Milan, with 13 points from Vlado Micov. This year, again in Milan, Olimpia won 82-76 with 14 points from Kevin Punter. The all-time total is therefore 2-0 for Olimpia Milan.

THE ZENIT CONNECTION – Arturas Gudaitis played for Olimpia for three seasons, winning the Italian league in 2018, the Super Cup in 2017 and 2018. In the EuroLeague he had 69 appearances with 701 points scored and 416 rebounds conquered. Kevin Pangos played for Barcelona with Malcolm Delaney even though he was injured and the two never shared the court. At Red Star, Billy Baron played alongside Kevin Punter. Vitaly Fridzon played in CSKA Moscow with Vlado Micov and Kyle Hines, and was coached by Ettore Messina.

NOTES – Kevin Punter (the EuroLeague ninth-best scorer with 14.5 points per game) has made at least one three in 30 of the last 31 EuroLeague games played. Malcolm Delaney has scored at least one three in 19 straight games and is within six of 500 career-assist. Olimpia is the team that has the fewest turnovers in the EuroLeague with 10.83 per game and is third for the highest number of forced turnovers, over 14 per game.

TWO-POINT SHOOTING RECORD – The 24 out of 32 two-point shooting night against Maccabi, equal to 75.0 percent, represents the best all-time performance in Olimpia’s EuroLeague history in terms of accuracy. The previous record dates back to 28 February 2019 when Olimpia shot 73.8 percent from two (31/42) in a game played against Khimki in Moscow and won 90-88.

THE BOMB SQUAD – After going 10-for-21 in the last round, Olimpia overtook Zalgiris and climbed to the first place in the three-point shooting, 42.51 percent for the season. Gigi Datome is third in the individual standing behind Kyle Kuric (Barcelona) and William Howard (Asvel) with 55.7 percent. Zach LeDay is fifth with 50.0 percent. Shavon Shields is seventh with 48.3 percent and has an open streak of 13 games with at least one made three.

RODRIGUEZ @ 3.000 – Sergio Rodriguez has now scored more than 3,000 points in his career. He is the eighth ever to cross this threshold. At the same time he reached Milos Teodosic with 471 made threes, for the fifth place ever, nine behind his national team teammates Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez. But none of the players that precede him (first is Navarro, second is Spanoulis) has a better shooting percentage than his 40.02 percent.