At the end of Turkish Airlines Euro-League Regular Season on December 18, 2015, the competition entered the Top-16 phase as the New Year approached. Round-1 matches were spread over two days on December 29 & 30, followed by Round-2 matches on January 7 & 8. After most home teams dominated proceedings in Round-1, the next round had some thrilling moments. After two Top-16 Rounds, 13 out of 16 teams have already tasted defeat. Fenerbahce Istanbul and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Group E and Olympicos Piraeus in Group F are the only 3 teams, which haven’t lost their matches so far. With the Round-3 scheduled for January 14 & 15, there will be only one undefeated team in Group E after Thursday because Fenerbahce take on Lokomotiv that day and one of them will lose. The gist of the first two rounds is presented below.
After Fenerbahce Istanbul scored an 82-75 home victory over Panathinaikos Athen, they traveled to Belgrade for Round-2 to take on Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. The home team faced the heat of Fenerbahce’s dominance and lost the game 65-88. It was also Fenerbahce’s biggest road win since they blew out Opel Syliners 82-52 in the 2004-05 season. At halftime, Fenerbahce had established a double-digit lead, which was further consolidated with Jan Vesely’s fourth quarter effort. Vesely scored 15 points with 15 rebounds and tied the 5-block club record. For Fenerbahce, Luigi Datome scored 21 points while Bobby Dixon scored 17 with a career-high 11 assists and 5 rebounds.
Like Fenerbahce, Russian club Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar also dished out a solid Round-1 performance in their away game in Croatia, when they defeated Cedevita Zagreb 89-75. That game was dominated by Malcolm Delaney, who excelled after Cedevita led 27-22 at one stage in the second quarter. Delaney netted a career high 31 points in victory and reached a Performance Index Rating of 41. For their Round-2 game on January 8, Lokomotiv hosted Anadolu Efes Istanbul. That game turned out to be an edge-of-the-seat affair and only the final shot decided the outcome as Lokomotiv won at 78-77. Anadolu led 64-55 in the fourth quarter and once again, it was Delaney, who stole the show by scoring 12 out of his 25 points in the last 10 minutes. Delaney also added 5 rebounds and provided 5 assists. Supporting him admirably was Anthony Randolph, who scored 16 points with 9 rebounds. It was the second time in one week that Anadulu had been involved in a close game. In Round-1 at Istanbul on December 30, , where they edged out Crvena Zvezda 85-84. Anadolu’s hero in that match was Dario Saric, who produced the game-winning jumper with just 3 seconds left.
Unicaja Malaga looked like continuing with their fine Regular Season performance, when they defeated Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 70-62 in their Round-1 game on December 29 but in Round-2, Unicaja lost 66-68 against Panathinaikos Athens in another thriller of the week. Unicaja led until 11 seconds left, but Panathinaikos’ James Feldeine produced a triple and when Unicaja’s Jamar Smith missed at the buzzer, Panathinaikos went through.
Cedevita Zagreb lost their Round-1 match to Lokomotiv but, dished out an improved performance in Round-2 against Darussafaka Dogus at Istanbul to win at 79-72 last Thursday. It was a close game, where the lead got exchanged four times in fourth quarter itself. But with Cedevita’s Henry Walker scoring a three-pointer towards the end and Jacob Pullen coming up some crucial points, Cedevita scored their fourth away win this season. Pullen scored a career-high 25 points in victory.
On December 29, FC Barcelona Lassa began their Top-16 campaign with a 62-74 defeat against Olympiacos Piraeus at Athens but bounced back in Round-2 to rout Khimki Moscow 87-70 at home. Though Barcelona led 49-29 at halftime, Khimki rallied with an 11-2 fourth quarter threatening run. Regardless, Barcelona were rescued by Tomas Satoransky’s triple. Other Barcelona scorers were; Juan Carlos Navarro and Pau Ribas with 14 points each. In Round-1, Khimki had defeated CSKA Moscow 91-89 in an all-Russian thriller but couldn’t challenge Barcelona in Round-2.
Laboral Kutxa Vitoria had scored a smart road victory in Round-1 against Zalgiris Kaunas, whom they defeated 89-68. However, at home in Round-2, they suffered a 76-82 loss against Olympiacos Piraeus, for whom it was the second successive Top-16 victory. Olympiacos kept the pressure on Laboral in all quarters with Vassilis Spanoulis scoring 19, Othello Hunter adding 17 and Georgios Printezis sinking another 15.
Defending champions Real Madrid began with a thrilling 82-79 Round-1 victory over Brose Baskets Bamberg on December 30 but lost 81-95 in Round-2 to CSKA Moscow at Moscow. Nando De Colo was the top-scorer with 28 points while Milos Teodosic added 23. Real had their chances midway through the final quarter but after they missed a three-pointer, it was CSKA all the way.
Brose Baskets Bamberg, who lost to Real Madrid in Round-1; played a dominating home game in Round-2 to beat Zalgiris Kaunas 96-63. It was the first ever Top-16 win for Brose Baskets, in which 6 players came up with double-digit scores led by Jan Strelnieks’ 19 points. Nikos Zisis added 18 and Nicolo Melli came up with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.
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