Fenerbahçe eyes win to keep playoff hopes alive
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fenerbahçe Ülker forward James Gist (L) blocks Emporio Armani Milano point guard Omar Cook during a Euroleague basketball match in Istanbul on Jan 25. AFP photoTwo teams fighting for different goals in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 Group G meet again tonight in Milan, when Emporio Armani Milano welcomes Fenerbahçe Ülker. Armani has no chance to go to the playoffs due to its tie-break disadvantage against Panathinaikos and Unics, while Fenerbahçe needs a win against Armani and a Panathinaikos victory over Unics in order to reach the next stage.
Ömer Onan and Curtis Jerrells did not play in Fenerbahçe’s last Euroleague game and their status is uncertain for tonight. Armani is without injury problems, but head coach Sergio Scariolo may opt to use a different rotation, since his team is already out of contention for the playoffs.
If Jerrells stays sidelined, Roko Ukic will see most minutes at point guard for Fenerbahçe, making the most out of his driving skills and court vision.
Ukic will get plenty of help from Engin Atsur, a reliable playmaker who always thinks of his team first.
Ukic has a size advantage against Omar Cook, who leads the Top 16 in assists for the fourth consecutive season. Cook must play hard against him, but coach Scariolo can also use Jacopo Giachetti, J.R. Bremer and even Alessandro Gentile against him. Gentile, however, should see more playing time against Bojan Bogdanovic, in what promises to be one of the most critical matchups in this game. Bogdanovic is playing well but Gentile is coming off his best Euroleague game this season.
Fenerbahçe has other good options on both wings, such as small forward Marko Tomas and versatile wingman Emir Preldzic, whose size, court vision and ball handling make him a one-of-a-kind player. Tomas faces a tough physical test against Malik Hairston.
Ukic says Fenerbahçe is “still alive.” “It’s kind of been up and down luck all season. We’re not in the place we want to be yet, but the Euroleague is so hard, whether in the first or the second stage. You just have to stay alive sometimes, and we’re still alive,” he said in an interview with euroleague.net.
“I think we have a decent chance now. Panathinaikos has to beat Unics for us, but I think they are the best team in the group and they need that victory. We will focus on ourselves and trying to do our part of the job by winning in Milan. If we’re lucky, both results will go our way and then we’ll be where we want to be.”