Regular Season Round 23: Into the final stretch!
The action returns following the bye week as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season heads into the final stretch, with Round 23 showcasing a Game of the Week between two strong title contenders, while several more playoffs hopefuls face virtual do-or-die encounters.
CSKA Moscow chalked up its fifth straight victory in the Russian capital by defeating short-handed Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 93-81 on Thursday night at Megasport Arena. Nando De Colo starred with a season-high 29 points as CSKA improved to 17-6. Maccabi, which was without leading scorer Andrew Goudelock due to injury, dropped its seventh straight road game to fall to 8-15. Kyle Hines set a career-high with 8 offensive rebounds en route to a double-double of 14 points and 10 boards. Sylven Landesberg paced Maccabi with a season-high 19 points off the bench.
Fenerbahce Istanbul used a 15-0 run to come back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit and edge visiting Olympiacos Piraeus 67-64 at Fenerbahce Ulker Sport Arena on Thursday. The win improved fourth-place Fenerbahce’s record to 15-8, while Olympiacos dropped third place with a 16-7 record, but the Reds also won the season tiebreaker against Fenerbahce due to their 9-point win earlier in the season. Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 27 points and Luigi Datome netted 17 points for the winners. Erick Green scored 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter for Olympiacos.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade got its season back on track with a dominant 77-58 home victory over Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul on Thursday at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall. After losing two straight games before the bye week, the pressure was on Zvezda to solidify its position in the top half of the standings, and the Serbian champs certainly delivered as Ognjen Kuzmic – who received his January monthly MVP award before tip-off – produced another big performance with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Branko Lazic also shined with a new career high of 17 points, including 5 of 5 three-point shooting. The result lifted Zvezda to 13-10, while Galatasaray fell to 7-16. The visiting team was paced by 11 points from Vladimir Micov.
FC Barcelona Lassa snapped its four-game losing streak by downing EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 78-83 at Mediolanum Forum on Thursday. Barcelona climbed to 9-14, while Milan dropped to 7-16 and saw its three-game home-court winning streak come to an end. Ante Tomic led the winners with 19 points on 9-of-12 two-point shooting plus 9 rebounds and Petteri Koponen added 16 points. Awadu Abass paced Milan with 14 points. Great two-point shooting percentage allowed Barcelona to get its first road win since November, as it hit 21 of 29 shots inside the arc (72.4%).
Friday tips off with another crucial game as Anadolu Efes Istanbul (11-11) attempts to maintain its place in the playoff positions at the expense of visiting Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz (12-10), which has lost five of its last six games. Efes is the third-highest scoring team in the competition with an average of 84.2 per game, and also ranks second in steals (7.4 per game), and fourth in both rebounds (36.1 per game) and assists (19 per game). The Spanish team is strong in similar areas, ranked fifth in scoring (80.6 points per game) and third in rebounds (37 per game).
Two teams looking to force their way into the playoffs mix go head to head as Brose Bamberg (8-14) hosts a Zalgiris Kaunas (9-13) team which saw a three-game win streak ended last round. In a game which could come down to details, two factors which may prove crucial are: free-throw shooting, in which Bamberg ranks second and Zalgiris third, converting 81.2% and 81%, respectively; and steals, with these teams claiming the lowest tallies in the competition, Zalgiris with 5.1 per game and Bamberg with 5 per game.
Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (13-9) will seek to strengthen its push for the playoffs at home to Unics Kazan (7-15), which was a narrow winnerswhen these teams met in Round 15, but has lost its last five games to fade away from playoff contention. Panathinaikos has won 10 of 11 games at home in Athens this season and the last seven straight, mainly thanks to the league's third-best defense, which has allowed just 75.6 points per game. Unics faces a particular challenge on the boards, having claimed the joint lowest number of defensive rebounds in the league (22.2 per game).
And finally, first-placed Real Madrid (17-5) will attempt to extend its winning sequence of eight games – the longest achieved by any team this season – at home to a Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (11-11) team with everything to play for. The visitors restricted Madrid to its lowest points tally this season in their Round 12 meeting, which Darussafaka won 81-68. It could be a long-range shoot-out, with Madrid tied for second in the league in three-pointers (9.5 per game) while Darussafaka is just behind with an average of 9.4 three-point strikes.
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