Montepaschi Siena’s chances of winning the Euroleague title took a huge blow on Wednesday when it was announced that power forward Ksistof Lavrinovic had broken his left hand and will miss at least a month of action. The Italian club said in a statement that the Lithuanian big man had undergone successful surgery Wednesday morning and will miss between 30 and 40 days.
The injury could not have come at a worse time for Montepaschi, which is trying to return to the Final Four after losing to Maccabi in the semis last season despite leading by 17 points. Simone Pianigiani’s team faces elimination from the Euroleague Top 16 as a loss at home against Cibona on Thursday would mean Cibona joins CSKA Moscow in the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Lavrinovic went down with the hand injury over the weekend as Siena dropped its first game in the Italian league. The 29-year-old Lavrinovic has been an invaluable performer off Pianigiani’s bench, averaging a 16.9 EL index rating in 25 minutes. His 12 points a game are third best for Siena and he leads the team with 7.0 rebounds while also averaging 0.8 blocks.
Pianigiani will undoubtedly have to change his rotation without Lavrinovic, who regularly came up with what his team needed, whether that was rebounding, blocking shots, bringing out the opposing big man and hitting three-pointers, or just playing excellent defense in the paint or on the wings. On both sides of the ball, his size (2.09m) and athleticism provided for regular mismatches.
Looking for a singe guy to replace what Lavrinovic does will be nearly impossible for Pianigiani. One player who could possibly step up to help is center Tomas Ress, who has only averaged 6 minutes over 10 games. But the 2.08 Ress did score 10 points – all 10 of his EL points this season – in the final Regular Season game against Nancy in 11 minutes, shooting 2 of 3 from inside and outside the stripe while collecting two rebounds and dishing out one assist.
More likely in such a crucial battle however would be Pianigiani giving the likes of Shaun Stonerook, Benjamin Eze and Romain Sato a few more minutes each. Siena’s dominance at home – 13 straight wins and 17 of 18 since the start of last season – will help Montepaschi overcome Cibona. But reaching even the quarterfinals without Lavrinovic will be a huge test.