Game Center: Regular Season, Round 20
An action-packed week with two rounds provided drama till the very end with Round 20, in which the top two teams in the standings were both pushed to their limits at home before surviving. There were only two road winners, but one of them - Zalgiris Kaunas, which beat Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul – tightened up the standings at the edge of the playoff zone.
Fenerbahce Istanbul rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to defeat rival Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul 85-80 in the big Istanbul derby on Thursday at Fenerbahce Ulker Sports Arena. Fenerbahce recorded its third straight win to improve to 13-7 and remain among the top four in the standings, while Galatasaray fell to 6-14 and last place. With All-EuroLeague center Ekpe Udoh sidelined, Fenerbahce saw another All-EuroLeague big man step up; Jan Vesely dominated with 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting plus 7 rebounds to lead the winners. Bobby Dixon added 17 points – including the go-ahead three-pointer. Blake Schilb paced Galatasaray with 21 points and 7 assists.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade registered its seventh consecutive win by downing Panathinaikos Athens 72-66 in front of a sellout crowd at Aleksandar Nikolic Arena in the Serbian capital on Thursday. Zvezda improved to 12-8, while Panathinaikos dropped to 11-9. Marko Simonovic led the winners with 13 points and Ognjen Kuzmic posted 10 points and 14 rebounds for Zvezda. Kenny Gabriel paced Panathinaikos with a career-high 23 points. Zvezda started the game with a 16-0 run, during which Panathinaikos missed 9 shots and committed 4 turnovers in the opening six minutes.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv restored some pride with a battling and much-needed 60-52 victory over Unics Kazan at Menora Mivtachim Arena, improving to 7-13 in the standings as the Russian team suffered its third consecutive defeat and dropped to 7-13. Defenses were well on top all night as both teams desperately struggled to find any offensive rhythm, illustrated by Unics making just 6 assists and league-leading scorer Keith Langford converting only 4 of 21 field goal attempts. A late burst from Andrew Goudelock, who finished with 17 points, was enough to secure the victory for Maccabi. Orlando Johnson led Unics with 13 points.
CSKA Moscow got back to its winning ways and became the first team to 15 wins this season after holding off Anadolu Efes Istanbul 80-77 on Friday in the Russian capital. CSKA, which played without Milos Teodosic and Victor Khryapa, improved to 15-5 and will remain in at least a share of first place at the end of the round, while Efes dropped to 9-11 on the season. The hosts led by double figures in the third quarter before Efes rallied in the final two minutes behind Thomas Heurtel to get within 2 , but the comeback ran out of time. Kyle Hines paced CSKA with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Heurtel finished with 24 points in defeat.
Zalgiris Kaunas battled its way back into the playoff picture with a 66-69 road win over Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul at Volkswagen Arena on Friday night. The Lithuanian champs improved to 8-12 and a share of 10th place, while Darussafaka fell to 10-10 and is in eighth. Kevin Pangos led the winners with 14 points, including a clutch three-pointer with 90 seconds to go that helped keep Darussafaka at bay. The key to victory was the Zalgiris defense, which kept Darussafaka out of rhythm and saw the home side shoot at subpar numbers from all ranges (38.5% on two-pointers, 33.3% on threes and 67.9% on free throws). Brad Wanamaker led Darussafaka with 17 points, 8 assists and 3 steals.
Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz bounced back from recent losses by downing FC Barcelona Lassa 79-93 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday. Baskonia improved to 12-8 and stopped its three-game losing streak. Barcelona dropped to 8-12. Shane Larkin led the winners with 18 points. Great shooting and aggressive defense helped Baskonia to a 10-point halftime lead, but the visitors took control in the third and led by as many as to 55-80 late in the third quarter and never looked back. Tyrese Rice led Barcelona with 15 points.
Olympiacos Piraeus showed its resilience to hold off Brose Bamberg for a hard-fought 83-77 victory at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. The Reds improved to 14-6 in the standings with their sixth consecutive home victory, while the gutsy visiting team dropped to 7-13. Athletic big man Khem Birch was the standout performer for Olympiacos with a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds and Vassilis Spanoulis led the offense with 15 points and 6 assists. Nicolo Melli paced the visitors with 14 points. Both teams saw players fouled out – Nikola Milutinov and Jerel McNeal – in a physical contest, which Bamberg kept close right until the end, partly thanks to converting 23 of 25 free throws.
In a back-and-forth battle that went down to the final minutes, Real Madrid held on to first place in the standing by downing EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 94-89 in the Spanish capital on Friday. Madrid improved to 15-5 in the standings while Milan dropped to 6-14. Sergio Llull led five Madrid players in double digits with 20 points. Luka Doncic added 17 while Jaycee Carroll had 16 for the winners. Krunoslav Simon led Milan with 20 points. With the game tied at 85-85 and two minutes left, Llull, Doncic and Gustavo Ayon combined for all points in a 7-0 run that sealed the outcome down the stretch.