Top 16 Round 10: The playoffs barrier is broken
It was an eventful round of games, which ultimately saw two teams – Real Madrid in Group E and CSKA Moscow in Group F – snag the first tickets to the playoffs this season. The action also saw milestones reached; Caleb Green of Unicaja Malaga scored the 500,000th point in competition history. And Zalgiris Kaunas attained its 100th victory. The playoff races grew even tighter; one win separates four teams from fourth place in Group F.
Last season’s runner-up is a step closer to challenging for the title again after becoming the first team to clinch a playoffs berth this season on Thursday. Real Madrid never trailed and beat depleted ALBA Berlin 93-62 to improve to 9-1 atop of Group E and advance. Madrid opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but the visitors hit four triples in the second to be within 46-39 at halftime. However, Madrid picked it up on defense after the break, while often running fastbreaks and breaking the game open. Jaycee Carroll finished with 13 points to lead Los Blancos in victory. Sergio Llull scored 12 points, Rudy Fernandez – who received his award as the February bwin MVP before the game - collected 11 points plus 8 assists. ALBA, which was without Jamel McLean, Cliff Hammonds and Leon Radosevic, saw Reggie Redding score 14 points. FC Barcelona downed reigning champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 89-71 at Palau Blaugrana to claim sole possession of second place. The hosts also claimed the head-to-head tiebreak advantage against Maccabi. Ante Tomic led the winners with 16 points on a perfect shooting night plus 12 rebounds. Tomic led Barcelona early and a three-pointer by Juan Navarro gave his team a 16-8 lead. Devin Smith tried to change things for Maccabi, but Barcelona led 47-34 at halftime and little changed after the break. Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade led from start to finish en route to a 68-91 victory over Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul at Abdi Ipekci Arena. The visitors started 4-15 and led by 20 in the second quarter. Galatasaray rallied to within 9 in the third quarter, but Jaka Blazic scored 10 in a 0-17 charge that bridged the third and fourth quarters and put the game out of reach at 51-77. Blazic led six Zvezda scorers in double figures with 19 points on 3-of-3 three-point shooting. Boban Marjanovic posted 14 points and 9 rebounds as his double-double streak ended at five games. Martynas Pocius led the home team with 13 points. Zalgiris Kaunas held on late to beat Panathinaikos Athens 76-70 for the club’s 100th Euroleague victory this century. The hosts led by as many as 14 early in the third quarter, but Nikos Pappas led the Greens all the way back. The score was tied on three occasions in the fourth quarter and Pappas gave the visitors a slim lead, but Arturas Milaknis buried back-to-back threes to put his team up 70-66 with three minutes to go and the Lithuanian champs held on the rest of the way. Will Cherry paced the Zalgiris attack with 18 points. Pappas paced Panathinaikos with 21 points.
The first team to the playoffs from Group F was CSKA Moscow after downing Anadolu Efes Istanbul 88-83 in the Russian capital on Friday. Milos Teodosic led the winners with 20 points and 9 assists. Vitaly Fridzon and Sasha Kaun fueled a 10-1 third-quarter run that gave CSKA a 66-57 margin. Efes never gave up and a three-pointer by Dontaye Draper brought the guests within 84-81 in the final minute, but a big basket by Nando De Colo and free throws by Sonny Weems helped CSKA seal the victory. Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul defeated Olympiacos Piraeus 64-73 at Peace and Friendship Stadium in Greece. Fenerbahce registered its seventh consecutive win and also grabbed its ninth straight road win - its last Turkish Airlines Euroleague road loss came on October 30. Fenerbahce also claimed the head-to-head tiebreak advantage over Olympiacos. Andrew Goudelock paced the winners with 24 points on 6-of-7 three-point shooting. Nemanja Bjelica added 16 points and 9 rebounds for Fenerbahce. On a historic night in Milan’s Mediolanum Forum, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan held off Unicaja Malaga 90-86 to register its first home victory in the Top 16 and keep alive its playoff hopes. The contest turned into a historic occasion when Caleb Green hit a three pointer early in the second quarter, marking the 500,000th point in Euroleague history! It also helped Unicaja build a 7-point lead, but Milan rallied after halftime when MarShon Brooks scored 14 of his 17 points, fueling a key 11-0 run that gave the hosts lead for good. Alessandro Gentile led the winners with 23 points. In the lone Thursday game in the group, Nizhny Novgorod defeated visiting Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 89-85. Laboral matched the game's biggest lead at 66-74 with seven minutes left, but after that, Nizhny used a spark from substitute Evgeny Baburin to get close while Trey Thompkins hit the go-ahead shot during a late 11-0 run that decided the game. Thompkins paced the winners with 22 points and 10 rebounds, marking his fifth double-double of the Top 16. Gal Mekel came off the bench with 20 points, while Taylor Rochestie had 14 and 9 assists for Nizhny, Davis Bertans had 21 points to lead five double-figure scorers for Laboral.
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