Regular Season, Round 7: Lots of opportunity!
Round 7 of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season promises a lot of excitement this week. One team, CSKA Moscow, has already qualified to the Top 16 and several others can follow this week. Some Euroleague powerhouses - not to mention the reigning champion - face critical games in this round. Points differential will be an extra factor in some games, too. Expect nothing but high intensity and a lot of drama all across the continent.
Fenerbahce Istanbul thrashed Strasbourg 81-64 to advance to the Top 16. Fenerbahce improved to 6-1 and has a two-game gap over every other Group a team with three games to go in the round. Jan Vesely led the winners with 20 points on 9-of-11 two-point shooting and Ekpe Udoh added 15 points. the margin was 5 points in the third quarter before Melih Mahmutoglou struck twice from downtown in a 14-0 run that sealed the outcome, 66-47, early in the fourth. FC Bayern Munich beat Khimki Moscow Region 70-81 on the road in the Round 7 opener on Thursday. Bayern not only swept the regular season series against Khimki, but also snapped its three-game losing streak. During the 40 minutes, Bayern only briefly trailed early in the first quarter, before John Bryant fueled a run that built a 14-23 lead, and three consecutive triples late in the second quarter helped Bayern to a 30-42 halftime margin. Khimki melted the deficit after the break, but never got closer than 54-59. Bryant paced Bayern with 17 points and 6 rebounds. In a high-voltage showdown on Friday, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (2-4) welcomes Real Madrid (2-4). The reigning champs allow opponents the most points (84.8) and two-point shots made (23.2) per game, as well as the second-best three-point shooting percentage (40.7%) in the competition. Madrid, however, leads the Euroleague in free throws made (19.5) and offensive rebounds (14.5 orpg.) and is second in total boards (39.5 rpg.) and blocks (4.17 bpg.). Zvezda is near the bottom in defensive rebounds (21.8) and third in fouls committed (22.8), with low shooting percentages in general (47.4% 2FG, 32.3% 3FG).
In a defensive battle at the top of the group, Olympiacos (6-1) pulled out a hard-fought 59-52 win over Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz and qualified to the Top 16 on Thursday. Laboral (4-3) rallied from a double-digit deficit to return to the game in the fourth quarter but three-pointers by Vangelis Mantzaris and Ioannis Athinaiou sealed the outcome in the next-to-last minute. Vassilis Spanoulis led the Reds with 10 points, while Laboral's Ioannis Bourousis amassed 16 points plus 15 rebounds against his former team. Cedevita Zagreb never trailed in a pivotal 69-78 road win against Limoges CSP, making a huge step towards qualifying for the Top 16. It was Cedevita's third win in four road games this season, and it also won a tiebreaker as it overcame a four-point loss against Limoges from Round 2. Behind a career-night from Luka Babic, Cedevita opened a 16-point lead in the third quarter before Heiko Schaffartzik led a rally by Limoges. However, the hosts never came closer than 6 points before Babic put the game away as it finished with a career-high 19 points and 6 rebounds. Heiko Schaffartzik was all over with 17 points on 5-for-8 three-point shooting, 11 assists and 6 rebounds for Limoges. EA7 Emporio Armani Milan edged Anadolu Efes Istanbul 88-84 to snap a five-game losing streak and keep alive its hopes of reaching the Top 16. Jamel McLean made clutch baskets down the stretch and finishes with 26 points, while Krunoslav Simon had 17 points, five rebounds and six assists in victory.
FC Barcelona Lassa overpowered Stelmet Zielona Gora 64-93 for its sixth straight win to clinch a ticket into the Top 16. Barcelona was fueled by a club record 17 three-pointers with only 9 misses! Alex Abrines led the charge by shooting 4 for 5 from downtown for 16 points, while Aleksandar Vezenkov and Carlos Arroyo each made 3 threes and scored 15 points. On Friday, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (5-1) hosts Zalgiris Kaunas (3-3) knowing that a victory will send it to the Top 16, too. Lokomotiv owns the competition's best defense, which allows just 69.2 points and 26.5 rebounds per game. Lokomotiv is first in steals (9.2 spg.) and fourth in two-point shooting percentage (54.7%), too. Zalgiris is also solid on defense (72.7 points allowed) and ranks fifth in free throw percentage (78.8%). In a pivotal game in this group, Pinar Karsiyaka Izmir (2-4) faces Panathinaikos Athens (2-4) on Friday. Karsiyaka ranks last in three-point shooting percentage (26.7%) and 21st in scoring (69.8). It has good defense against three-point shooters (30.6%) but not inside the arc (58.4%). Panathinaikos is second in steals (8.8) and assists (20.5), but also last in rebounds (30.8) and turnovers (16.3).
Unicaja Malaga vaulted into the Top 16 with a no-doubt-about it 82-68 victory over visiting Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv on Thursday. A 20-0 run bridging the first and second quarters put Unicaja in control, and though Maccabi closed within 71-63 late, Will Thomas shut the door by scoring 11 of his 20 points in the last 5 minutes. Mindaugas Kuzminskas followed for the winners with 14 points, while Richard Hendrix had a double-double of 11 and 12 rebounds. Taylor Rochestie had 13 points and 4 assists for Maccabi, whose record dropped to 1-6 and the danger zone for elimination. In the first of two Friday games, already-qualified CSKA Moscow (5-1) hosts Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari (0-6), which will be eliminated with a loss or if Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (3-3) wins later Friday. CSKA leads the Euroleague in average index rating (108.5), scoring (89.3) and two-point shots made (22.8 per game), with excellent percentages (58.6% 2FG, 41.6% 3FG). Sassari is 22nd in scoring (68.3), last in rebounds (27.5) but first in free throw accuracy (84.4%). Sassari allows 84.5 points per game and higher index ratings (105 allowed per game) than any other team. Darussafaka hosts Brose Baskets Bamberg (4-2) in a game that could put the visitors in the Top 16 if they win. Darussafaka has been stronger on the boards, averaging 37.6 rebounds to Bamberg's 32.7. Bamberg leads the Euroleague in two-point shooting percentage (59%) and is second in three-point accuracy (42%). Darussafaka ranks high in fouls drawn (21.8) but low in free throw percentage (68.1%). It is also third in turnovers at 15.7 per game.
Be sure to follow all the fun this week on Euroleague.TV and Euroleague.net!