Top 16, Round 3: And then there was one!
There is only one unbeaten team left after Round 3 of the Top 16 and it is Fenerbahce Istanbul, which rallied in the fourth quarter at home to hand Lokmotiv Kuban Krasnodar its first group defeat in a rivetting Game of the Week. All told, six of eight teams took care of their home floors this week, while Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and Brose Baskets Bamberg snatched precious road victories.
In the Game of the Week, Fenerbahce Istanbul rallied past Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 85-79 in a thriller on Thursday. The hosts came back from down 9 in the fourth quarter, which featured five lead changes and four ties, before back-to-back threes by Bogdan Bogdanovic and Luigi Datome gave the Fenerbahce the lead for good. Bogdanovic finished with 18 points and 5 assists, Jan Vesely added 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Datome scored 16. Victor Claver was 5-for-5 from behind the arc and finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds for Lokomotiv. In a tough, defensive showdown in the Greek capital, visiting Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade downed Panathinaikos Athens 63-74. Zvezda took the lead for good in the second quarter, but pulled away in the third behind a 0-9 run that made it 48-59. The visitors kept the lead safe until the end as Maik Zirbes led the way with 12 points, while Stefan Jovic flirted with a triple-double and finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Unicaja Malaga routed Cedevita Zagreb 90-67, leading from top to buzzer to improve to 2-1 for a share of second place. Unicaja pulled down 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, and hit 7 three-pointers in the first two quarters to build a comfortable 52-31 halftime lead. Cedevita never came closer than 15 points rest of the way as Unicaja finished with 19 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the visitors 43-23. Mindaugas Kuzminskas led the hosts with 17 points and Daniel Diez shot 4 for 5 from long range to score 16 points. In the only Friday game in the group, Anadolu Efes Istanbul held off newcomer Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 84-71 in a battle of Istanbul. Jayson Granger came off the bench to rack up 15 points and 8 assists for Efes. The visitors used a nice start to lead by 5 late in the first quarter, but Granger dominated the second to make it 36-27 at halftime and Cedi Osman highlighted a 12-0 third-quarter run with 5 points and 2 blocks in a span of 30 seconds. The lead peaked at 18 before Ender Arslan heated up. Arslan buried back-to-back threes to start the fourth quarter and bring the visitors within 4, but Derrick Brown and Granger reacted to slam the door on any Darussafaka comeback hopes.
In the Round 3 opener on Thursday in the Russian capital, a short-handed CSKA Moscow topped FC Barcelona Lassa 93-82 at Megasport Arena. Playing without absentees Nando De Colo, Joel Freeland, Victor Khryapa and Pavel Korobkov, CSKA hit 16 three-pointers and took control of the game in the second quarter. An 18-4 run in the third helped CSKA pull away to 76-59 margin and never look back. Cory Higgins paced CSKA with 20 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting, while Andrey Vorontsevich had 16 points on 4 of 6 three-point shooting, pulled down 9 rebounds and dished 4 assists. Milos Teodosic added 16 points with 6 assists. In the first of three Friday games, Khimki Moscow Region edged Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz 76-68 as Alexey Shved led the winners with 24 points. James Augustine added 22 points and 8 rebounds while Tyrese Rice dished 13 assists for Khimki. Khimki had 22 assists and just 14 turnovers compared to Laboral's 15 assists and 19 turnovers. It was tied at 39-39 at halftime, but the hosts improved their defense after the break and Shved led a 13-0 run that broke the game open. In a battle between former continental champions, Real Madrid downed Zalgiris Kaunas 92-86 in the Spanish capital in the head coaching debut of Euroleague legend Sarunas Jasikevicius for the visitors. Felipe Reyes led Madrid with 24 points, his career high after 243 Euroleague games. Gustavo Ayon added 16 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. Madrid led by as many as 13, but Brock Motum and Renaldas Seibutis pushed Zalgiris to within 45-42 at halftime. Madrid improved its defense after the break and found a go-to guy in Reyes, who helped the champs extend their margin to 65-53 after 30 minutes. Zalgiris did not give up, but Madrid kept a safe margin throughout the fourth quarter. Ayon received his MVP for December trophy from Madrid basketball great Emiliano Rodriguez in a pre-game ceremony. Finally, one week after snapping its 21-game losing streak in the Top 16, Brose Baskets Bamberg went on the road and seized a 72-77 upset of Olympiacos Piraeus. Led by Darius Miller and Janis Strelnieks, Bamberg finished second quarter with a 0-14 run, then opened the third with 0-8 blast which helped it build 31-55 lead. The Reds rallied back behind their defense to cut the difference to 72-74 on a Vassilis Spanoulis three-pointer with 12.7 seconds to go. But Bamberg held on as Brad Wanamaker sealed the victory with free throws. Miller netted 23 and Strelnieks 15 points in a historic win for Bamberg.
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