Game Center, Round 28: Zalgiris qualifies, Fenerbahce and Olympiacos clinch home court
The end of the last double-round week of the regular season left six playoff spots filled and three qualifiers knowing they will have home-court advantage in the next phase. Zalgiris Kaunas made a historic step up to the playoffs despite a road loss in Round 28, while Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and Olympiacos Piraeus assured themselves with victories that they will start the playoffs hosting Game 1.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 63-80 Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul
With an impressive long-range shooting display, defending champion Fenerbahce assured itself home-court advantage in the playoffs by running away from host Crvena Zvezda for a 63-80 victory on Thursday. Fenerbahce's 11th win in the last 13 games gave it a 20-8 record to retain hold of second place, while already-eliminated Zvezda dropped to 11-17. Ali Muhammed pumped in 7 of Fenerbahce's 14 three-pointers – 13 of which came in the first three quarters – on his way to a season-high 25 points, one short of tying his career high. Nikola Kalinic followed with 10 points, while Jan Vesely and Marko Guduric scored 9 each. Dejan Davidovac had the best scoring game of his rookie season with 18 points for Zvezda.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 75-76 Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens
Panathinaikos delivered a crushing blow to Maccabi's playoff hopes and boosted its own chances for a top four finish with a 75-76 win at Menora Mivtachim Arena on Thursday night. Mike James tied a career high with 27 points, including the game-winner with 5.8 seconds left to lead the Greens, which improved to 17-11 and tied for the fourth-best record in the league. Maccabi fell to 13-15 and will face elimination next week when it visits Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz. Ian Vougioukas added 16 points on perfect shooting in 15 minutes off the bench and Nick Calathes tallied 10 points and 4 assists in setting a new single-season assist record with 204. DeAndre Kane led Maccabi with a career-high 19 points plus 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Against the league's top-rebounding team, Panathinaikos collected 13 offensive boards and outrebounded Maccabi 32-42 in one of the keys to the game.
Real Madrid 88-81 Zalgiris Kaunas
Real Madrid took a step forward in its race to claim home-court advantage in the playoffs by topping Zalgiris Kaunas 88-81 in the Spanish capital on Thursday. Madrid improved to 17-11 in the standings and Zalgiris dropped to 16-10. Despite the loss, Zalgiris qualified for the playoffs for the first time since this phase returned to the competition in 2005. Felipe Reyes led the winners with 16 points, Fabien Causeur added 14 and Luka Doncic returned from injury to produce 11 points and 7 assists. Paulius Jankunas paced the visitors with 21 points. Zalgiris led 41-48 early in the second half, but Facu Campazzo and Causeur rescued Madrid, which rallied to lead 65-62 after 30 minutes. Jankunas and Pangos had Zalgiris within 75-74 midway through the fourth quarter, but Trey Thompkins scored 6 unanswered points, which helped make the difference.
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 89-93 Valencia Basket
In an entertaining clash of two previously-eliminated teams, Valencia Basket went on the road and held off AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 89-93 at PalaBancoDesio in Desio, Italy. Valencia improved to 11-17 and Milan dropped to 9-19. It was a game with offenses in good rhythm and teams shooting well from long range, with Valencia making 12 of 25 triples and Milan 14 of 29. The visitors led 74-85 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Curtis Jerrells rallied the hosts. However, Valencia survived the comeback as Erick Green netted 18 points, while Tibor Pleiss had 11 points and 8 rebounds. For the hosts, Vladimir Micov starred with a career-high 27 points on 7-for-9 three-point shooting plus 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Khimki Moscow Region 73-90 CSKA Moscow
CSKA Moscow took its city derby in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague by topping Khimki Moscow Region 73-90 on the road on Friday. CSKA improved to 23-5 in the standings and already had locked up first place while Khimki, also qualified to the playoffs, dropped to 16-12 and sixth place overall. Nando De Colo led the winners with 17 points. Othello Hunter added 16, Leo Westermann had 14, Sergio Rodriguez got 12 while Cory Higgins contributed 11 for CSKA. Alexey Shved led Khimki with 20 points. Shved has now scored 609 points this season, tying the all-time record that belongs to Keith Langford of UNICS Kazan since last year. Egor Vialtsev added 13 points for the hosts. CSKA led 31-51 late in the first half and even when Khimki got within 57-64 late in the third quarter, CSKA did not have any trouble to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer.
Brose Bamberg 93-88 Unicaja Malaga
Brose Bamberg won its fifth consecutive home game 93-88 on Friday to take away visiting Unicaja Malaga's last, slim chances for the playoffs in the third-to-last game of the regular season. Brose's victory gave both teams 11-17 records as part of a four-way tie with Valencia Basket and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. Brose staked a pair of 17-point leads in the first half but Unicaja rallied to within 87-86 on Nemanja Nedovic's fastbreak layup with 32 seconds left before Ricky Hickman found Dorell Wright for a three-pointer that ended the threat. Hickman led the winners with a season-high 28 points while Wright followed with 12 and Leon Radosevic with 10. Nedovic poured in 26 for Unicaja and was joined in double figures by Ray McCallum with 13.
Olympiacos Piraeus 89-82 Anadolu Efes Istanbul
Olympiacos Piraeus secured home-court advantage in the playoffs by leading from start to finish before holding off the visiting Anadolu Efes Istanbul 89-82 on Friday. Olympiacos moved to 19-9 in the standings and cannot finish worse than fourth after a game in which Vassilis Spanoulis and Nikola Milutinov led the Reds to big leads in the first, second, and third quarters, but Efes kept coming back. The visitors closed within 85-82 in the next-to-last minute, but Spanoulis made sure that Olympiacos prevailed. Milutinov collected a career-high 20 points and 8 rebounds, and Spanoulis finished with 17 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds. Kruno Simon had 18 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds for Efes, which dropped to 6-22 record and is now sure to finish in the last place.
FC Barcelona Lassa 73-86 Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz further strengthened its position in the playoffs places with a 73-86 road victory over FC Barcelona Lassa courtesy of a 0-14 run in the final period. Vincent Poirier shone with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, while Johannes Voigtmann provided 17 points and 7 boards. Janis Timma had a strong all-round game with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, and Toko Shengelia had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Petteri Koponen led Barcelona’s challenge with 21 points on 5-of-5 three-point shooting. The victory sends Baskonia to 15-13, two games ahead of Maccabi in the battle for the final playoffs place. Barcelona drops to 9-19.