Last week, four teams were eliminated after Round-11 games of Top16 in the Turkish Airlines Euro-League Basketball. Thus far, only two teams have qualified for the play-offs. CSKA Moscow joined Fenerbahce after defeating Laboral Kutxa Vitoria in a Round-11 game on March 17. With Fenerbahce Istanbul having already qualified after beating Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Round-10, six berths are still up for grabs for the 10 teams remaining in fray. Therefore, the next three rounds will be crucial for the competitors. Match briefs of the two Groups can be found in following paragraphs.
Fenerbahce Istanbul continued with their great run this season in Top16 and won their 10th match by beating city club Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 77-69. No one can now dislodge Fenerbahce from their top position in their group. Dogus are now eliminated with a 3-8 win-loss record. On March 17, however, Dogus surprised Fenerbahce by taking a 25-21 first-quarter lead before Fenerbahce responded with a 14-0 second-quarter run to lead 45-39 at halftime. After the two teams traded lead in the third quarter, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Luigi Datome came up with superb displays to lead Fenerbahce to another victory.
Panathinaikos Athens defeated Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 84-77 in Athens. With that, both teams ended up with a 7-4 record but Lokomotiv clung on to second place on point difference. However, Lokomotiv dictated terms for most part and led 71-67 in fourth quarter, before Nick Calathes engineered a 10-3 run for Panathinaikos followed by another 10-0 spurt that helped the hosts to beat Lokomotiv. Elliot Williams and James Gist scored 16 points each with Dimitris Diamantidis adding 15 and 6 assists for Panathinaikos.
On March 18, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade defeated Unicaja Malaga 78-72 after trailing by a 19-point margin in third quarter. With a 7-4 record in Top16, Crvena joined Panathinaikos and Lokomotiv at the second place behind Fenerbahce. After Unicaja’s Nemanja Nedovic took his team to a 49-30 halftime advantage, Zvezda’s Marko Gudoric and Marko Simonovic rallied with fine play and reduced the deficit to 51-55 late in third quarter. In the fourth, Simonovic’s 4 three-pointers engineered a 23-7 run and Zvezda surpassed Unicaja for good. For Zvezda, Stefan Jovic scored 16 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds while Simonovic and Guduric both added 12 each. points. Nedovic’s 22 points for Unicaja were wasted as his team also suffered the ignominy of elimination.
In another match on March 18, Anadolu Efes Istanbul edged out Cedevita Zagreb 80-76 and the loss resulted in Cedevita’s elimination. Cedevita looked like the winners on Friday with Nemanja Gordic ensuring double-digit leads in each half but Thomas Heurtel’s brilliant play brought Efes back into the game. Regardless, the fight was still close until Birkan Batuk scored a triple with 2 minutes left and Efes went ahead. Heurtel top-scored with 19 points and 6 assists for Efes.
In a battle of group superiority, CSKA Moscow defeated Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 90-78 on Thursday. The victory also sent CSKA into play-offs after Cory Higgins led CSKA’s charge in first two quarters. Despite CSKA’s 40-26 halftime advantage, Laboral refused to be cowed down and came within 7 points in third and fourth quarters. However, Nando De Colo ensured that CSKA kept the lead all through. De Colo scored 16 of his 19 points in second half and Higgins finished with 18.
CSKA’s play-off spot came when Real Madrid lost to arch-rivals FC Barcelona 65-72 later on Thursday. While both Madrid and Barcelona have the same 6-5 record, Barcelona has the third-place edge because they have beaten the reigning Euro-league champions twice in Top 16. Barcelona began with a 19-2 lead and consolidated to 31-6 margin before Madrid were helped by a 12-0 run to bring the halftime score to 40-28. Real Madrid improved in third and fourth quarters to take a 54-52 lead and held on at 64-63 with just 100 seconds left. However, Barcelona’s Stratos Perperoglou changed everything at crunch time to secure victory for his side. Perperoglou was the top-scorer with 20 points, while Tomas Satoransky added another 17.
In another game on Thursday, Brose Baskets Bamberg stunned Khimki Moscow Region 84-79 thanks to an amazing rally by Bradley Wanamaker in closing stages. Wanamaker scored 18 of his career-high 25 points in the last 5 minutes of the match. Brose Baskets now share fifth spot jointly with Khimki. It looked like Khimki’s match at most times but they couldn’t have imagined the sudden spurt at closing stages by Wanamaker, who single-handedly scored the last 13 points for his team. Leon Raodosevic also added 18 while Nikos Zisis scored 16 in his 250th Euro-league game.
In another match on Friday, Olympiacos Piraeus defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 74-59 to end the Lithuanian Club’s Euro-league campaign this season. With a 5-6 record, Olympiacos are at the fifth spot and they need to win more matches to enter the play-off stage. Against Zalgiris, Georgios Printezis led Olympiacos with 17 points while Kostas Papanikolaou added another 11. Olympiacos led 39-30 at halftime and never looked back as Zalgiris ceased to be a threatening opposition.
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