Top 16, Round 5: All eyes on championship game rematch
The Top 16 races begin coming into sharper focus during Round 5, in which three undefeated teams can solidify their good standing while several other teams need to end losing streaks. The marquee matchup is not for discussion as reigning champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv hosts Real Madrid, the team it beat for the trophy last spring in the first overtime game to crown a European champion since 1969. Their newest face-to-face meeting highlights five games on Thursday, while Top 16 Round 5 finishes with a bang, three simultaneous tipoffs on Friday!
In a highly anticipated rematch of last season's Turkish Airlines Euroleague Championship Game, reigning champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv held on to beat Real Madrid 90-86 at Menora Mivtachim Arena. A dramatic clash came down to the closing seconds when Joe Alexander made clutch free throws for the hosts and Euroleague MVP Sergio Rodriguez committed a turnover for Madrid. The result left the two teams tied atop Top 16 Group E with 4-1 records. Sofoklis Schortsanitis dominated early and finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds for the champs. MarQuez Haynes also scored 17 on 5-of-8 three-point shooting, while Sylven Landesberg added 16 points in victory. Felipe Reyes had another monster game for Madrid with 20 points plus 11 rebounds, becoming the Euroleague’s career rebounding leader. Boban Marjanovic amassed 17 points plus 12 rebounds as Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade topped ALBA Berlin 86-69 in Hala Pionir for its first Top 16 victory. In the first ever official meeting between two teams, Zvezda jumped to an early lead and used a 12-0 second-quarter run to break the game open at 40-20 and never looked back. Panathinaikos Athens (2-2) and Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul (2-2) will also meet for the first time ever when they square off in the Greek capital on Friday. The Greens have won six of seven at home this season, and those victories have come with an average margin of 15.5 points. Galatasaray's lone away win this season came two weeks ago in Belgrade, on one of the toughest away courts on the continent, and coach Ergin Ataman's men hope to repeat that in front of the equally intimidating Panathnaikos fans in Olympic Sports Center Athens. In another high-profile showdown on Friday, former Euroleague champions FC Barcelona (2-2) and Zalgiris Kaunas (1-3) meet in Palau Blaugrana. Barcelona has won 16 of 17 all-time games against Zalgiris, including 11 in a row. The lone victory of the reigning Lithuanian champs came in 2004, a 98-102 decision in Barcelona. It is also a strength-vs-strength matchup, as Barcelona ranks third in scoring with 83.6 points per game, while Zalgiris defense allows 71.4 points per night, second-lowest overall, and holds opponents to a league-best 29.4% three-point shooting.
In a high-scoring all-Russian showdown, CSKA Moscow grabbed its 15th consecutive Euroleague victory – and 30th counting other competitions – by downing Nizhny Novgorod 103-95 at home on Thursday. CSKA improved to 5-0 in sole possession of top spot in Group F, while Nizhny dropped to 2-3. Milos Teodosic led the winners with 25 points – 7 of which came in the extra session. Trey Thompkins and Taylor Rochestie scored 22 points apiece for Nizhny. CSKA led by 7 through three quarter, but Rochestie hit 4 free throws in crunch time to send the game to overtime at 88-88. However Teodosic and Sasha Kaun took over in the extra period and a layup by Andrey Vorontsevich sealed the outcome. In the Game of the Week, Anadolu Efes Istanbul used strong second-half defense to grab an 84-70 victory over Olympiacos Piraeus, handing the visitors their first Top 16 loss of the season. The Reds held a 37-40 halftime lead, but Efes outscored them 47-30 after the break, using its defense to build an 18-point lead. The victory improved Efes to 3-2. Dontaye Draper paced the winners with 14 points, and Nenad Krstic scored 13 in victory. Davis Bertans netted 16 of his game-high 19 points in the first five minutes of the game as Laboral Kutxa Vitoria routed EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 102-83 to improve to 2-3 record. Laboral led from start to finish, as Bertans hit 4 triples in as many attempts, fueling the hosts to lead 34-18 after the first quarter. Laboral missed only 9 of 31 shots from the field in the first half, and held a 61-42 halftime lead before cruising to victory as Mike James scored 16, and Darius Adams netted 15 in victory. Action in Group F concludes on Friday when winless Unicaja Malaga (0-4) welcomes Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul (2-2) which has won four road games in a row and six of seven this season. Unicaja has lost 10 of its last 11 games, including three in a row at home. The same teams split home wins in the Top 16 last season.
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