Top 16 Round 13: Playoff races grow tighter!
The penultimate week of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 started with the possibility that the three open playoff spots would be determined by week’s end. That will not be the case. Thursday’s results ensured that the remaining playoff tickets will not be handed out until after Top 16 Round 14. In fact, not a single one of the top four places in Group E will be decided until next week and only one in Group F has been settled.
In a battle for first place between age-old rivals , FC Barcelona held off the visiting Real Madrid 85-80 on Thursday in the Game of the Week. Barcelona's seventh consecutive win meant that both teams now have 10-3 records atop Group E, but Madrid remains in first place for having won their first meeting by 24 points. The game featured 11 ties spread over 38 minutes, the last one at 78-78 with 1:50 to play. That's when Barcelona legend Juan Carlos Navarro stepped up with go-ahead free throws and consecutive assists to ice the victory for the hosts. Barcelona's bench made the difference, outscoring Madrid's 53 to 30 as Mario Hezonja led that effort with 15 points on 5-for-6 three-point shooting, while Brad Oleson had all of his 12 points on three-pointers, too. Rudy Fernandez topped all scorers with 20 points for Madrid. The race for the remaining two playoff spots in the group remains wide open after some great drama on Thursday. First, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv downed the depleted Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul 81-72 and improved to 8-5 for third place. The game at Menorah Mivtachim Arena was close for much of the night and Galatasaray tied it at 58-58 early in the fourth quarter before Devin Smith scored twice in a 10-0 run that paved Maccabi's way to victory as Smith led Maccabi with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. However, an hour later, ALBA Berlin rallied to edge Panathinaikos Athens on the road 66-68, which sets up a clash in the German capital next week between ALBA and Maccabi with only the winner assured a playoff spot. Panathinaikos can also advance with victory next week, but its opportunity to secure a playoff spot slipped on Thursday after it entered the final quarter with a 55-46 lead. Reggie Redding strung together 8 points to rally the visitors, before Jamel McLean and Alex Renfroe made key baskets down the stretch to secure an ALBA victory. Renfroe finished with 16 points and 9 assists, Redding netted 8 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, while the Greens’ Dimitris Diamantidis led all scorers with 18 points. Panathinaikos still holds a tiebreak advantage over ALBA due to its 6-point win in Berlin. A matter of pride between already-eliminated teams produced an entertaining game of swings as Zalgiris Kaunas hung on to beat visiting Crvenza Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 76-70 in its last home game of the Euroleague season on Friday. The hosts followed Paulius Jankunas to a 13-point lead at halftime thanks to a 24-8 run over the last seven minutes of the second quarter. Zvezda and Charles Jenkins won the third 11-28, however, setting up a wild finish. With a minute left, one of the plays of the season saw two saves lead to a long alley-oop from Will Cherry to James Anderson that decided the outcome in spectacular fashion. Jankunas had 19 points and Cherry 17 to lead the winners. Zvezda center Boban Marjanovic registered his 15th double-double of the season , 14 points and 12 rebounds, to break a Euroleague record in that category. Marjanovic had been tied at 14 with Tanoka Beard, who had that many double-doubles for Zalgiris in the 2004-05 season.
CSKA Moscow became the favorite to clinch first place in the group on Friday; CSKA bested Olympiacos Piraeus 76-70 in the Russian capital. CSKA improved to 11-2 and secured home-court advantage in the playoffs, while Olympiacos dropped to 9-4 and is now locked into third place. CSKA will be first if it beats EA7 Emporio Armani Milan next week or if Anadolu Efes beats Fenerbahce Ulker in the Istanbul derby. If Fenerbahce wins and CSKA loses, Fenerbahce will be first and CSKA second. Sasha Kaun and Sonny Weems led the winners with 16 points apiece. Milos Teodosic added 14 points and 7 assists. Matt Lojeski and Georgios Printezis led Olympiacos with 16 points apiece. The hosts held a slim 51-49 through three quarters. Matt Lojeski had 12 points for the Reds in the fourth, but he didn't find much help around, as Teodosic and Weems stepped up in crunch time to lead CSKA to a critical win. Sergey Tarakanov and the late Victor Pankrashkin were honored at halftime when their jerseys were raised to the rafters. Tarakanov and Pankrashkin helped the Soviet Union conquer the gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Laboral Kutxa Vitoria defeated Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul 93-76 on Thursday, stopping Fenerbahce's nine-game road winning streak. Laboral used a strong start and opened up 37-20 margin midway through the second quarter. Fenerbahce got within 42-37 after the break, but Darius Adams led a 10-0 run that allowed Laboral to take the lead back to double figures and cruise to victory. Mike James led the winners with 19 points and Laboral improved to 6-7 in the fourth place, while Fenerbhace dropped to 10-3 record. Down 10 in the third quarter, Thomas Huertel came alive to spark an impressive turnaround as Anadolu Efes Istanbul took charge to defeat EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 86-78 on Friday at Abdi Ipekci Arena. The win improved Efes to 6-7 and left it in control of its destiny; a victory next week will send Efes to the playoffs. The result also eliminated Milan from playoff contention after the Italian champion fell to 4-9. Huertel buried 4 three-pointers and scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter. After a 12-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters, the hosts led 68-59. The difference grew to 13 and despite some late shooting from MarShon Brooks, Milan never threatened again. Heurtel also dished 5 assists for the winners, while Nenad Krstic scored 22. Brooks and Alessandro Gentile led Milan with 17 points apiece. In Round 13's opener on Thursday, Unicaja Malaga crushed Nizhny Novgorod 75-94, mathematically stripping the hosts from any chance to qualify for the playoffs. Mindaugas Kuzminskas led the winners with 18 points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting. Vladimir Golubovic added 17 on 8-of-8 two-point shooting plus 8 rebounds.
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