The Top 16 hits its mid-point with all 16 teams still in playoff contention, with 15 of them holding between one and four victories, and only Fenerbahce Istanbul undefeated through six games. With eight games evenly split between Thursday and Friday, Top 16 Round 7 features a rematch of last season's Final Four semifinal between CSKA Moscow and Olympiacos Piraeus, as well as two clashes in which teams face each other for the third time this season.
Ekpe Udoh took his turn as the star as Fenerbahce Istanbul dominated Unicaja Malaga 80-59 on Thursday night at Ulker Sports Arena to reach the midway points of the top 16 with a perfect record. Udoh posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocked shots to both set a club record and tie for the third-most rejections in competition history. Luigi Datome made 3 of 4 three-pointers to pace the winners with 13 points, Ricky Hickman scored 12 points and Jan Vesely, who received the January MVP from, Fenerbahce Sports Director Omer Onan before tip-off, and Bogdan Bogdanovic each added 11. Despite Udoh rejecting 5 shots in the first quarter and a half, Unicaja kept it relatively close, but Hickman heated up to give the hosts a 41-28 halftime lead and Unicaja never got closer than 12 the rest of the way. Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade beat depleted Cedevita Zagreb 94-74 in front of a packed house at legendary Hala Pionir on Thursday night. With tennis superstar and world’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic sitting courtside cheer on the hosts, Zvezda led by Quincy Miller got off to a flying start, using a 12-0 run to build a 26-9 lead. Cedevita got into its rhythm, and led by Jacob Pullen kept melting the deficit. The hosts led 43-32 at halftime, but in the third quarter Cedevita closed within 6 points and had a couple of possessions to get even closer. However, in the fourth, Marko Guduric hit three triples, Vasilije Micic and Branko Lazic also hit one each, and Zvezda pulled away for good. Miller finished with 22 points and Micic had 14 points and 9 assists. On Friday, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar (4-2) welcomes Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (1-5) for the first game ever between them. Lokomotiv leads the Top 16 in three-point shots made with 12 per contest, while its defense allows a league-low 70.7 points
per game. That number dips to 65.3 on its home floor, where Lokomotiv is 6-1 and has beaten opponents by an average margin of 12.3 points. Darussafaka is coming off its historic first ever Top 16 win, while four of its five losses have come by a single-digit margins, making it a more dangerous visitor than its record indicates. Also Friday, Panathinaikos Athens (3-3) hosts Anadolu Efes Istanbul (3-3) in a pivotal game for both teams. Winners of two in a row, Panathinaikos commits more turnovers (14.8) than any other team in the Top 16, whil only one team scores fewer than the Greens' 72.2 points on average. However, despite its low scoring, the Panathinaikos offense ranks third in the Top 16 with 19.6 assists. On the other hand, Efes has been very successful away from home, where it has 4-4 record this season. Efes men have been the Euroleague's best three-point shooting squad overall this season, the only one that averages 10 triples made through 16 games, and also does so with a competition-best 42.9% accuracy.
In Game of the Week on Thursday, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz cruhed visiting Brose Baskets Bamberg 90-64 for its fourth consecutive win. Laboral's strong finish of the first quarter gave it control and 26-13 lead, and soon in the second quarter Laboral broke the game open behind Mike James. The hosts held a 19-point lead at halftime, and never allowed Bamberg to get closer than 12 rest of the way as Ioannis Bourousis led the winners with 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes, and James added 16 points in victory. A monster game from Gustavo Ayon helped Real Madrid down Khimki Moscow Region 82-93 in the Russian capital. It was the champs first road win of the Top 16 and their first victory over Khimki after losing twice in the regular season. Ayon collected 24 points on 10-of-12 two-point shooting, 13 rebounds and 5 steals. Sergio Llull added 17 points and 11 assists for Madrid, which trailed 50-43 at halftime. But Llull and Jaycee Carroll led a 1-16 run that brought Madrid back, before Ayon took over early in the fourth quarter, boosting Madrid's lead to 72-84 with four minutes left, as the visitors cruised to a well-deserved road win. On Friday, in a Euroleague classic, CSKA Moscow (4-2) hosts Olympiacos Piraeus (3-3) in the Russian capital. Last season at the Final Four in Madrid, Olympiacos rallied late to shatter CSKA's title hopes with 68-70 semifinal victory. These two powerhouses have played each other seven times in the last four seasons, and three times at Final Fours, with Olympiacos holding 4-3 record and winning all three Final Four clashes. However, Olympiacos has won in Moscow only once this century. CSKA is scoring 93 points per night at home in the Top 16 and leads Top 16 in index rating (106.2), two-point accuracy (59.1%), and assists (20). That league-best offense goes against an Olympiacos defense that allows the second-fewest points (71.4) this season. Also on Friday, FC Barcelona Lassa (2-4) hosts Zalgiris Kaunas (1-5), in a must-win game for both teams. Barcelona holds a 19-2 all-time record against Zalgiris, but these teams split road wins earlier in the regular season, when Zalgiris won in Barcelona 88-92. This game, however, marks the first in which legend Sarunas Jasikevicius leads Zalgiris as a head coach against the club he helped to win its first Euroleague title in 2003. Zalgiris struggles offensively, scoring just 70.5 points on average this season, the lowest of any team still in the competition, and in the Top 16 has made just 5 triples per night. Barcelona takes the best care of the ball among Euroleague teams, committing just 10.3 turnovers, but it has lost seven of its last nine games.
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