UNICS Kazan has won its last two games and is undefeated at home. Jamar Smith (21.0 ppg., 66.7% 3FG), Isaiah Canaan (18.0 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 5.0 apg.) and John Brown (11.0 ppg., 9.3 rpg.) have been leading the team until now. Joventut is one of the three undefeated teams left in the competition. Ante Tomic (15.8 ppg.) has been its top scorer until now, followed by Pau Ribas (13.3 ppg.) and Neno Dimitrijevic (12.5 ppg.). Expect a high-profile showdown between former EuroCup champions at Basket Hall Kazan.
UNICS has to find a way to stop Ante Tomic, who has been outstanding with Joventut. Tomic has been effective in the paint (64.1% 2FG), powering the offensive glass (2.8 orpg.) and using his size and high basketball IQ to pass the ball (3.5 apg.) when double-teamed. He ranks second in average PIR (24.0) behind only Jamar Smith (24.3). John Brown has a size disadvantage against him but his aggressiveness and character can give him a plus. He ranks second in rebounds (9.3 rpg.) and seems ready to play physical against a more experienced opponent.
It will be the fifth showdown between these teams. They split the first four meetings and have beaten each other at home and on the road in EuroCup action. In their first showdown, UNICS downed Joventut 71-82 on December 1, 2009, behind 24 points from Kresimir Loncar. Last season, they split home wins; Joventut downed UNICS 90-73 at home and registered an 86-74 loss in Kazan. Errick McCollum had career-highs of 32 points and 41 PIR in UNICS's home win.
Keys to victory: UNICS
Stopping Tomic down low, preventing him from getting the ball in the paint, is mandatory for the hosts. Joventut run its offense through him, as he generates space for shooters such as Ribas, Dimitrijevic, Xabi Lopez-Arostegui and Conor Morgan, who get better shots when he is on the court. UNICS must play with great physicality on defense, and power the defensive boards to get going in transition. Players like Canaan and John Holland thrive in run-and-gun situations. Of course, if the game is close, Smith is expected to be UNICS's go-to guy in crunch time.
Keys to victory: Joventut
Joventut has to make the most out of its depth at point guard, with Dimitrijevic, Ferran Bassas, Arturs Zagars and even Ribas. Coach Carles Duran's team must dictate the game tempo, preventing UNICS from running the floor and trying to get Tomic involved on offense. Ribas, an elite on-the-ball defender, faces a key matchup against Smith, a great shooter with deep range. Joventut has a size advantage in the paint with Tomic, Simon Birgander and Vladimir Brodziansky and has to make the most out of it.