Fenerbahce Istanbul is still the only undefeated team in Turkish Airlines Euro-league after 5 rounds of Top-16. On Thursday, they beat Cedevita Zagreb for their fifth consecutive victory. By all accounts, credit for Fenerbahce’s 5 straight wins is attributable to their Czech recruit Jan Vesely. In nearly every match in the New Year, Vesely’s image of soaring to the rim and converting point after point for Fenerbahce has endeared him to viewers, who have rightly nicknamed him as the Czech Helicopter. Vesely’s stunning performance in Fenerbahce’s fine run of victories last month has also earned him the MVP for January. Vesely began 2016 by equaling a 12-year-old Top 16 record and by the time Fenerbahce scored their fifth victory, he had scored 12 or more points in every game. In addition, Vesely also accumulated more rebounds and blocks with a higher performance index rating than any Euro-league player. Among other Round-5 results last week, Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul suffered their fifth consecutive defeat in Group E and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar lost their second match in the same Group. In Group F, defending champions Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Khimki Moscow won their matches while Barcelona Lassa suffered a rare home loss. Brief accounts of all Group E & F matches can be found in the following paragraphs.
On January 28, Fenerbahce defeated Cedevita Zagreb 86-73 at Istanbul’s Ulker Arena. The home side began with a massive 18-0 first-quarter run but Cedevita pulled back impressively in the second quarter to reduce the margin to just 7 points at halftime. There was further rally by the Croatian club in third quarter and they came within one point. However, in the final quarter, Fenerbahce went on the rampage and finished as winners for the fifth straight time since Top16 began. For Fenerbahcer, Luigi Datome scored 19 points, Ekpe Udoh added 17 with 4 blocks while MVP for January Jan Vesely added 12 with 6 rebounds.
In a home game on Friday, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade defeated Russia’s Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 80-66. With that result, three teams in Group E share the second place with three victories each. Now Crvena, Lokomotive and Anadolu Efes Istanbul are tied at second spot behind Fenerbahce. For Crvena, Quincy Miller scored 14 points in first-quarter to create a huge lead. Miller finished with 24 points, Tarence Kinsey added 19 and Maik Zirbes, another 18.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul scored an 85-75 road victory over Unicaja Malaga after the home side led 59-50 during third quarter. But Efes’ began a rally with Jayson Granger’s three-pointer. The lead fluctuated 22 times and there were 10 ties before Efes finally pulled away in the last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter. Granger top-scored with 22 points and Jon Diebler added another 16.
Darussafaka Doguss Istanbul lost their fifth straight game against Panathinaikos Athens, when the home side edged them out 82-79 in a close game at Athens. Both teams were equally matched and neither side could build a double-digit lead at any time in the 40-minute match. Panathinaikos didn’t have the services of the mercurial Dimitris Diamantidis but they still performed well. After a 42-38 halftime lead, Panathinaikos improved in the third quarter. However, riding on Jamon Gordon’s brilliance, Darussafaka overtook Panathinaikos twice in the fourth quarter. With 2 minutes left for the buzzer, Darussafaka led 74-72 but the home side converted some crucial free throws towards the end to emerge as winners. For Panathinaikos, Miroslav Raduljica scored 17 points with 8 rebounds and Nick Calathes added 14 with 9 assists.
The contest between defending champions Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus was the game of the week, in which Madrid scored an 84-72 home victory at Barclaycard Center. It was a repeat of 2015 final between these two teams at the same venue, where Real Madrid had won the Turkish Airlines Euro-league championship. On Thursday, both teams fought hard and despite the lead changing sides, Madrid led 41-35 at halftime and pulled away in third quarter with the help of a 13-0 run engineered by Sergio Rodriguez’s pair of three-pointers. Another Sergio, Llull took over from Rodriguez in the fourth quarter and scored 11 of his 18 points in the last six minutes of the game.
At Moscow on Thursday, CSKA Moscow outplayed Brose Baskets Bamberg 91-70 for their third straight Top16 win. CSKA superstar Nando De Colo topped the scoring with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
In another closely fought Group F battle, FC Barcelona Lassa suffered a 78-81 home loss against Laboral Kuxta Vitoria in a game that went to the overtime. For Laboral, Ioannis Bourousis scored 24 points while Darius Adams added another 17. Adams’ three-pointer in fourth quarter had forced the overtime and Laboral held on to down the hosts.
At Moscow, Khimki Moscow Region scored heavily in their 111-80 victory against Zalgiris Kaunas. There was nothing Zalgiris could do against the force of Tyrese Rice and Tyler Honeycutt. Rice topped the scoring with 20 points and 11 assists while Honeycutt added 14 with 3 blocks.
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