The Turkish Airlines Sponsored Euro-league is perhaps the biggest basketball annual show in Europe and the rest of the world. From the regular season that lasted for two months from October 15 to December 19, 2014, time has finally come for the round-of-16 matches. As the tournament moves to the Final Four, the level of viewer interest rises and in 201 countries and territories across the world the live coverage is available. Viewers wait for these matches with enhanced expectations from their favorite teams. Already there is mad rush for tickets for the Final Four Program, scheduled for May 15-17, 2015 at the Barclaycard Center in the Spanish capital Madrid. However, there is still plenty of time left for the Final Four because the last 16 teams emerged after the regular season on December 19, 2014. These teams have been divided into Groups E & F and they will play a total 14 games until April 10, 2015. The round of 16 matches will be followed by the knock-out stage during April 14-28, 2015 and only then it would be time for the big event in Madrid. The first games in the round-of-16 were played on different venues across Europe between December 30, 2014 and January 02, 2015.
On December 19, the last 16 teams have finally emerged and they were bracketed in two Groups E & F. The Group E teams are; Real Madrid, Maccabi Electra, Panathinaikos Athens, Galatasaray, FC Barcelona, Crvena Zvezda Telekom, Zalgiris Kaunas and ALBA Berlin. Similarly the teams that have been kept in Group F are; CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria, Nizhny Novgorod, Olympiacos Piraeus, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Unicaja Malaga and EA7 Milan. In their Groups, these teams will play 7-home and 7-away matches until April 10 before they enter the play-off stage, when 8 teams will contest in a best-of-five series with series winners advancing to the Final Four. Beginning on Tuesday December 30 the first games in round-of-sixteen were played until yesterday January 02, 2015. The matches favored the visitors as the home sides lost in five games out of eight. In the opening match on December 30 at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, the home team Galatasaray Liv Hospital defeated Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas 78-69 in a closely contested match. The visitors came up with some spirited play mid-way through the match and established a 47-39 lead. However, a pair of baskets-plus-fouls by Zoran Erceg and improved play by Galatasaray ensured that the home club leveled the deficit and outscored the visitors. For Galatasaray, Erceg and Guler scored 14 points each with Carlos Arroyo adding 12 points and 5 assists. In another match on Tuesday, Panathinaikos Athens played forcefully against Tel Aviv’s Maccabi Electra in beating the defending champions 83-76 in Athen’s Olympic Sports Center. Athens trailed in the third quarter but helped by Slaughter’s triple and strong defense, they tied the score to 68-68 and then never looked back. Esteban Batista led the scoring for Athens with 16 points, James Gist scored 10 of his 15 from the free throw line and Slaughter scored 8 of his 15 in the fourth quarter.
On Friday January 2, ALBA Berlin defeated FC Barcelona 80-70 in Berlin. For the hosts, Reggie Redding, Jamel McLean and Leon Radosevic scored 16 points each. Barcelona took an early lead but ALBA came up with superior play in second and third quarters. On the same day, Real Madrid won an away-game 79-72 against the Serbian home side Crvena Zvezda Telekom at Kombank Arena in Belgrade. For Real, Rudy Fernandez scored 15 points and 6 rebounds. Zvezda, however, established a 40-38 early in the second quarter but Sergio Llull and Fernandez stole the show in the later period to help the visitors get away with the victory. In another Friday match at Istanbul, CSKA Moscow managed to edge out Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul 84-81 in an absorbing clash that went into overtime. The two teams traded leads all through the match and once the CSKA star Sonny Weems tied the score at 74-74, the contest slid to the extra period, during which Nando De Colo’s free throws and steal in dying moments gave CSKA the away win against the hosts. Weems and Kyle Hines scored 13 points apiece. However, with 19 points Andrew Goudelock was the game’s top-scorer for the hosts.
The most interesting game of the week was the one between Olympiacos Piraeus and Unicaja Malaga. The Greeks won that game against the hosts 69-61 after trailing initially. The visitors snatched the lead after the first quarter and mounted a solid defense. Anadolu Efes Istanbul beat Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 72-67 in a game where the Istanbul side trailed 49-58 in the third quarter. But a later charge from Stratos Perperoglou helped the visitors hold off stiff challenge by Vitora. Nizhny Novograd also won their match against EZ7 Emporio Armani 79-59 at Milan. The Russian visitors tore away with a third quarter score of 17-3 and steamrolled the hosts. The next games in the round-of-sixteen will be played during January 8-9, 2015.