By Yarone Arbel
Today at 17:30 CET two Baltic teams will step on court in Limassol to try and make history.
Latvian side Barons LMT Riga, only in their third ever campaign in a European competition, will take on Estonian club Tartu Rock - the first team out of Estonia to appear in such an advanced stage of a European competition.
The teams have met already twice during the Baltic league season. Barons dominated the boards in these two occasions and won twice by double-digits, but Tartu show a different face in the EuroCup.
The boys of coach Ullar Kerde proved to be one of the strongest teams in this EuroCup campaign. They have dropped only two games on the way to the Final Four and both of them were on the road against tough Russian opponents. The 89-77 win over Ural Great in the quarter-finals showed to everybody Tartu is here for a reason and they deserve it.
|George Tsintsadze is the undisputed floor leader for Tartu Rock.|
Already at the age of 22 the Georgian point guard George Tsintsadze leads Tartu to new heights. In order to stop Tartu you need to stop him. In the past eight games of his team he has failed to reach double-digits only twice and those were the games Tartu lost. In game three against Ural Great he stepped up with 25 points including 10 perfect hits from the free throw line to lead the win.
Harvard graduate and 2.17m center Brian Cusworth has been a lock bet for Tartu throughout his debut season in Europe by averaging 13.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg in addition to 1.3 blocks. Barons managed to contain him in the Baltic league games and that was one of the keys for their wins. Cusworth will have to step up and dominate the paint for Tartu if his team wants to continue its history making run.
Four Estonians will carry their national pride with them on court tonight and take part in the effort to make a difference.
37-year-old Gert Kullamae is still one of the deadliest shooters in Europe from long distance, 2.05m big guy Janar Talts can step outside to shoot the three as well and he's the top rebounder of the team, Marek Doronin, who has played his entire career for Tartu will bring his heart and the memories of his perfect game in the groups stage decider while Tanel Tien will bring his magnificent all-around game, energy and experience to make things happen.
On the other side of the fence coach Karlis Muiznieks will hope his team can face the pressure of this big game. No team in the EuroCup has more experience in playing under pressure better than Barons, after eight of their 11 EuroCup games were decided by small margins. The fact they won only half of these
thrillers will play a role today as well.
|Demetrius Alexander has been Barons' double-double man.|
Demetrius Alexander has been everywhere around the world and by his age of 33 he has seen everything. The athletic forward carried his team on his back on many occasions and brought his experience to court when needed. He leads the team in points and rebounds and wrote down more double-doubles than any other EuroCup player. Together with 1.92m all-around Latvian guard Armands Skele, who's the main executer in Barons' offense, they present a big threat to any defense in this competition.
Lithuanian forward Dainius Adomaitis has already won the Euroleague with Zalgiris Kaunas back in 1999, so winning European titles is nothing new to him. After several years of traveling around Europe he has returned this year, at 34, to the Baltic region. He brings to the floor his high intelligence, great shot selection and a deadly long distance weapon that hits 56% from that range. Another Lithuanian guy is point guard Giedrius Gustas who was a member of the Lithuanian national team in the last World Championship in Japan and also on the team that won a bronze medal in the last EuroBasket. Gustas is one of the best free throw shooters in Europe, and if the game will be on the line in the last seconds he could play a key role.
Barons also present J.P. Batista a Brazilian center with a big body that not many players can handle in the paint, and a Latvian big guy who perfectly completes him in that area - the 23-year-old Kaspars Berznis who spent a while in Unicaja Malaga and now is showing his ability to knock down three-pointers in great accuracy with his 211cm tall body, that will allow Batista more freedom in the paint.
Tonight around 19:30 only one side of the Baltic region will be celebrating. Expect nothing but blood, sweat and maybe even tears to stay on court. Two big desires with just one spot to fill.