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Olimpia is hosting Baskonia with Shabazz Napier, Coach Messina: “We’ll get some minutes that we need from him”


The EuroLeague week with two rounds for Olimpia will take place entirely at the Mediolanum Forum against two teams immersed in the battle for a playoffs’ berth, Baskonia and Red Star. The Basque team is coming off a spectacular comeback win in overtime against Efes. They have an explosive offense, 85.5 points per game, they are third for assists and fourth in three-point shooting. Last week the team replaced Pierria Henry with Max Heidegger, a rookie in the EuroLeague but a solid point-guard in Europe for some years. Olimpia added Shabazz Napier to try to make up for the long sequence of injuries which undermined the team’s development. Going into Round 22, Kevin Pangos has missed over half of the games, Shavon Shields was available only for two games and a fraction of a third. Without the 55-60 minutes provided by the two starters, Olimpia held on only in spurts. Napier comes to help the team at this juncture of the season. This game will also be the first without the Captain, Nicolò Melli.

THE REFEREES – Ilija Belosevic (Serbia), Gytis Vilius (Lithuania), Gentian Cici (Albania).

COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “Regardless of our record and the players who won’t be available, including Nicolò Melli, we will try all we can do to get a win before our fans, against a prestigious opponent, which likes to play a fast-paced game, has the most prolific offense in the EuroLeague, depth and a lot of confidence. For us, limiting the turnovers, being patient offensively and control the rebounds will be crucial, just like paying attention to the many shooters they have. Shabazz Napier had just one team practice, but we will use him, hoping for some minutes in a position where we need them badly.”

BASKONIA – Three players are always starting for Baskonia. Darius Thompson, the last round’s MVP, averages 10.9 points and 5.8 assists per game, and he is a physical point guard; Rokas Giedraitis, a small forward, is averaging 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game of which 4.1 are defensive; and Estonian center Maik Kotsar (8.9 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, 67.8 percent from two). However, Baskonia, coached for the first year by Joan Penarroya, is a deep team that share minutes and responsibilities across the roster. Among the guards, the great shooter Markus Howard stands out (15.4 points per game, 42.8 percent from three), but he is questionable since he had a right ankle injury during the last Spanish league game in Murcia. The Serbian Vanja Marinkovic also produces a lot (7.8 points per game, 39.6 percent from three) and had 25 points last Sunday in Murcia. The newcomer Max Heidegger has to be taken into consideration too. The Lithuanian Tadas Sedekerskis plays multiple positions and is a highly efficient player, 6.9 points with 75.0 percent from two, 40.9 percent from three, 4.5 rebounds over 20.0 minutes of playing time generally off the bench. Spain’s Daniel Diez is a shooter (44.0 percent from three) completing the rotation, along Arturs Kurucs. Among the big men, Matt Costello is a 2.11 power forward who scores 9.7 points per game on 40.3 three-point shooting over under 20 minutes of playing time during which he grabs 4.3 rebounds. The other power forward is Daulton Hommes (6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds on average). In addition to Kotsar, the center is Steven Enoch, a physical player who averages 6.7 points per game shooting 62.2 percent from two and 3.2 rebounds in just over 15 minutes on the court.

HISTORY VS. BASKONIA – The all-time series is tied 11-11. In Milan, Olimpia is leading 8-3, on the road it is 3-8. Milan has prevailed three times in Vitoria, the first took place during the 2013/14 season, 83-65 with 17 points scored by Curtis Jerrells; in 2017/18, Olimpia won 83-82 with 16 points each for Andrew Goudelock and Jordan Theodore, who made the winning drive) and finally last season it was a 78-64 win with 12 points and 10 rebounds by Shavon Shields, 13 points were scored by Malcolm Delaney and 12 by Devon Hall. Baskonia won the home game earlier in the season 78-62 in spite of the 23-point losing effort by Brandon Davies

THE BASKONIA CONNECTION – Shavon Shields has spent two seasons in Vitoria, winning the Liga in 2020. Overall, he has played 59 EuroLeague games with 569 points scored. He also took part in 63 Spanish league games with 711 points scored. Obviously, he won’t be able to play. Johannes Voigtmann has played three seasons in Vitoria with 100 appearances in the EuroLeague and 876 points scored. Assistant coach Peppe Poeta was a player for Vitoria during the 2013/14 season.

GAME NOTES – Nicolò Melli has started in all of Olimpia’s 21 games so far, one of nine players who have started every games so far. Melli has started in each one of the last 53 EuroLeague games he has played in. Billy Baron is averaging 17.2 points per game when Olimpia’s won its games. Kyle Hines is two blocked shots away from 300 for his career and crossed the 700-point scored for Olimpia. Since he came to Milan, he has played every single EuroLeague games, 97 out of 97, fourth all-time, behind Kaleb Tarczewski, Nicolò Melli and Vlado Micov. Deshaun Thomas has crossed the 2.000-point scored barrier during the last game in Monaco. Devon Hall is one of nine players averaging more than 30 minutes per game.