Top 16 Round 9
Four of the five teams with the best Top 16 records face road tests in Top16 Round 9, including both group leaders. While those teams focus on making a push for home-court advantage in the playoffs, several other teams have a last chance to get back into a playoff hunt this week. The action is split over three days, with one game on Wednesday and four more on Thursday before Top 16 Round 9 concludes with three games on Friday.
In another key matchup and a classic showdown, Panathinaikos Athens (5-3) hosts FC Barcelona (5-3) on Thursday. It is their fourth meeting this season, and Barcelona has won all three games so far. But with teams currently tied in third place, a win for either of them in this one would solidify its place in the playoff race, and improve its hopes in the race for home-court advantage in the playoffs. Panathinaikos ranks third in scoring with 71.9 points per game in the Top 16, and makes a Top 16-best 9.4 three-pointers per night. The Greens have won eight of nine home games this season. The only loss came against Barcelona in Round 10 of the regular season, which was also Barcelona's last road win; it has dropped its last three decisions away from home. Also on Thursday, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade (1-7) welcomes Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv (6-2) for the second consecutive season. Maccabi holds 6-1 all-time recorde, including last year’s dramatic regular season 76-78 win in Hala Pionir. This time, in Belgrade’s Kombank Arena, Maccabi will try to continue its run of form. The reigning Euroleague champion has won six of its last seven Top 16 games, and holds an impressive 6-2 road record this season. Last place Zvezda, on the other hand, hopes to play a role of a spoiler in front of its die-hard fans, as it aims to beat Maccabi for the first time since 1973. Group E action concludes on Friday when Galatasaray Liv Hospital (2-6) faces the group leader Real Madrid (7-1) at home. The two teams met for the first time ever last year in the Top 16, a series Madrid swept, and Los Blancos hope to do the same this season. Galatasaray will have a tough task trying to end its five-game losing streak, going against a team that dominates on both ends of the floor in the Top 16 – Madrid ranks first in assists (21.8) and second in scoring (86.3), while having league-best 10.6 steals and 17.8 turnovers, in addition to allowing the second-lowest 71.4 points per game. Reggie Redding shined with a career-high 27 points plus 7 rebounds and 5 assists as ALBA Berlin held off a late Zalgiris Kaunas charge for an 80-72 victory at o2 World in the German capital on Wednesday. After a big first quarter from Jonas Wohlfarth and a dominat second-quarter from Redding, ALBA led 42-37 at halftime. The hosts seemed to take control with a strong defensive third quarter to establish a double-digit lead, which reached 16 early in the fourth. Zalgiris rallied late behind Paulius Jankunas and drew within 5 on an Arturas Milaknis triple with two minutes to go, however second-chance baskets by Leon Radosevic and Alex Renfroe helped seal the win. Renfroe finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals. The hosts outrebounded Zalgiris 35-17.
On Thursday, Fenerbahnce Ulker Istanbul (6-2) welcomes Nizhny Novgorod (2-6) for the first time ever. Fenerbahce won their Top 16 Round 2 clash 60-78, which started its current run of six wins in seven games. Fenerbahce has done so with a defense that holds opponents to 73.1 points, but now faces the offensive-minded visitors, who rank fourth with 81.4 points per game in the Top 16. The Euroleague's best two scorers this season are set to go one against another, as Taylor Rochestie (19.8 ppg), who is also the Top 16's assists leader (6.9) and runs Nizhny's offense, goes against Fenerbahce guard Andrew Goudelock, who ranks second with 17.0 ppg. Laboral Kutxa Vitoria (4-4) hosts CSKA Moscow (6-2), hoping to build on its momentum from a road win last week. Laboral has been solid at home, winning five of its last six games. It ranks second in offensive rebounding (13.5) and third in scoring (82.5) in the Top 16, but CSKA and its offense rank first in the Top 16 in scoring (89.1) and three-point accuracy (40.8%) and second in assists (18.8). The visitors will also look to bounce back from a home loss last week, and need a win in the battle for home-court advantage in the playoffs. On Friday, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan will look to keep its playoff hopes alive when it hosts group leader Olympiacos Piareus (7-1). Milan is yet to win at home in the Top 16, but comes into this clash with a big boost of confidence after last week's big road win in Nizhny behind Top 16 Round 8 bwin MVP Samardo Samuels, followed by a 50-point victory in the domestic league on Sunday. Olympiacos is the second-best three-point shooting team in the Top 16 (9.1 triples, 39.5%), and has the Top 16's best defense (70.6 ppg). The Reds look to stay in control of the group with a win, which would also all but mathematically secure their playoff spot. Also on Friday, last place Unicaja Malaga (1-7) welcomes Anadolu Efes Istanbul (4-4). Both sides enter this contest on a two-game losing streak. Unicaja wants to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, while knowing that another loss would all but mathematically eliminate it from playoff contention. Unicaja is the best offensive rebounding team in the competition (13.8 orpg.) while Efes ranks last in that compartment (7.6 orpg.). But the visitors have many other weapons. They are one of the most successful three-point shooting teams in the Top 16 - third with 8.9 triples on a fourth-best 39.4% accuracy. Efes also takes good care of the ball, ranking third with only 10.6 turnovers, while on defense the teams ranks third with 7.4 steals.