When Round-7 matches of Regular Season ended on December 27, six teams had joined CSKA Moscow in the qualification race for Top-16. The number of Top-16 qualifiers swelled to 10 after the conclusion of Round-8 on December 4. Therefore, over the next two Rounds of the Regular Season, 6 more teams will emerge with clarity out of 11, whose chances are still alive. Round-8 matches also threw up three players, who shared the performance index rating. While Nando De Colo of CSKA Moscow and Maik Zirbes of Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade were named as joint MVPs for Regular Season Round 8, Alexey Shved of Khimki Moscow also had the same 33 performance index rating but since his team lost to Zvezda, Shved wasn’t as lucky as De Colo and Zirbes. A brief run-down of Round-8 Group matches follows below.
Fenerbahce Istanbul are the lone Top-16 Group qualifiers and from the remaining 5 teams, any three can take the qualification cake with two games left to play. The match between Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and Khimki Moscow went to the wire with a 96-91 finish for Zvezda in Belgrade. However, Khimki still retain the crucial tie-break advantage since as it beat Zvezda 91-53 in Round 3. In a hard-fought game, Alexey Shved led the scoring for Khimki while it was Maik Zirbes for Zvezda. Despite Shved’s 28 points, Zvezda clinched the match with Zirbes scoring 27 and Quincy Miller 25. The teams kept trading the lead all the way to the end with the result coming only in the final 2 minutes with Quincy Miller’s miraculous play making the vital difference.
Bayern Munich inched closer to qualification with 82-69 away victory over Strasbourg. Bayern began with a 21-8 assault and led 48-29 at halftime. Bayern never allowed Strasbourg to come back and finished with an emphatic win. John Bryant was the top scorer for Bayern with 17 points.
In the third game, Real Madrid defeated Fenerbahce Istanbul 80-73 in a game reminiscent of their semifinal last year at the same venue. Madrid were helped by an amazing burst from Sergio Llull, who scored all his 17 points in last 16 minutes. For Fenerbahce, Jan Vesely finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds. The loss didn’t affect Fenerbahce, who have already qualified.
In this Group, three teams have already qualified and there are several contenders for the lone spot. Already qualified Olympiacos defeated EA7 Emporio Armani 73-63 in Athens. This was Olympiacos’ fifth consecutive victory but it came the hard way. Olympiacos were helped in the last quarter by DJ Strawberry, who scored 9 of his 16 points with 9 rebounds.
Milan’s loss helped two other teams in the Group to qualify for the Top-16. Laboral Kutxa Vitoria defeated Limoges CSP 92-56 and walked into the last 16. In a nearly one-sided encounter, Laboral never trailed as Darius Adams led the scoring with 23 points. Likewise, Anadolu Efes Istanbul marched into Top-16 after scoring an 81-75 away victory over Cedevita Zagreb, who led 68-58 in the fourth quarter. But Efes’ Derrick Brown engineered a comeback with help from Dario Saric.
There was shock for already qualified Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, who suffered a 51-66 home loss against Stelmet Zielona Gora. With their second victory in eight matches, Stelmet are still in with a qualification chance. In Friday’s match, Stelmet started off with a 24-13 lead with 10 minutes and finished at 40-27 at halftime. Stelmet didn’t allow Lokomotiv to bounce back into the match. For the visitors, Mateusz Ponitka Dee Bost and Dejan Borovnjak scored 11 apiece in victory.
In a high-scoring game between Panathinaikos Athens and already qualified FC Barcelona Lassa at Athens, the Greek Club handed a 93-86 defeat to Barcelona. Panathinaikos led 45-35 at halftime and surged to a 16-point lead as the third quarter ended. But in an amazing turnaround, Barcelona’s Stratos Perperoglou made it 82-78 with 2 minutes left. Panathinaikos stopped the rearguard action with a three-pointer from James Feldeine and sealed Barcelona’s fate. Miroslav Raduljica was the top-scorer for Panathinaikos with a career-high 25 points while Dimitris Diamantidis added another 20. Panathinaikos’ victory, taken together with Stelmet’s helped Zalgiris Kaunas’ advance to the Top 16. With three teams already confirmed for Top-16, the fight now will be among Panathinaikos, Stelmet and Karsiyaka.
In the third match, Zalgiris Kaunas defeated Pinar Karsiyaka 74-52 at home. The game opened for Zalgiris on a 12-1 second-quarter run and though Karsiyaka reduced the deficit below 10 points, they couldn’t stop Zalgiris. For the hosts, Mantas Kalnietis had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
In a match between two already qualified teams, CSKA Moscow scored a 100-88 road victory over Brose Baskets Bamberg. Nando De Colo was CSKA’s star with 27 points and 11 assists while Cory Higgins added another 23. After a 51-47 lead at halftime, CSKA pulled away in the third quarter and finished a comfortable victory.
In another match, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv scored their first road win by outlasting Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari. The victory kept Maccabi’s qualification hopes alive while Sassari went out of contention with a 0-8 record so far. In an intense game, Maccabi trailed and bounced back towards the end. Sylven Landesberg led Maccabi with 19 points; Guy Pnini added 16 while Taylor Rochestie scored 14.
In the last match, already qualified Unicaja Malaga suffered a 57-63 road loss against Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul. After trailing 28-30 at halftime, Unicaja rallied in the third quarter to lead 48-45 but the hosts took charge in 4th quarter with Milko Bjelica scoring 9 points in a 14-0 run. Darussafaka held the lead and finished victors. Reggie Redding was the top-scorer for Darussafaka with 19 points, while Bjelica added another 18.