Game Center, Round 1: What a great way to start the season!
The moment that basketball fans around the globe waited all summer for was well worth it as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague returned on Thursday and Friday with dramatic action. Home teams had the edge with six victories in eight games, but several had to come back and three groups of local fans had to suffer first, as their teams won by five or fewer points. In the Game of the Week, last season's 7DAYS EuroCup champion, Unicaja Malaga, held by a single point against reigning EuroLeague champion Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul. Two classics who missed the playoffs last season bounced back strong. Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv won by 17 on the road and FC Barcelona Lassa by 27 at home, scoring its highest point total in October this century!
Real Madrid became the first team to register victory in the 2017-18 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season by dominating three out of four quarters against Anadolu Efes Istanbul for a 74-88 road win. Behind great performances from Luka Doncic, who scored a career-high 27 points, and Gustavo Ayon, Madrid first opened an 18-point lead in the first half, and when Efes closed within a single possession early in the fourth quarter, Los Blancos strung together a 3-14 run that put the game away. Doncic also had 4 rebounds and 4 assists, while Ayon posted 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Errick McCollum led Efes with 26 points in his EuroLeague debut.
After trailing by 16 in the first half, CSKA Moscow roared to life in the second to defeat AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 93-84 and win its 10th straight game in the Russian capital. Nando De Colo scored 13 fourth-quarter points to carry CSKA to victory after Cory Higgins erased much of the deficit in the third quarter. Higgins led the way with 21 points, Sergio Rodriguez added 20 in his CSKA debut, De Colo finished with 19 and Will Clyburn posted a double-double. For Milan, Andrew Goudelock and Vlado Micov stood out with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv may have found a new star in Pierre Jackson as the diminutive guard starred in a 71-88 opening night road win at Brose Bamberg. Jackson posted 14 points and 4 assists in the fourth quarter as his team outscored the German champs 12-33 in the final 10 minutes to snatch the come-from-behind win. Jackson finished with 29 points on 5-of-5 three-point shooting plus 9 assists for a performance index rating of 41 in his Maccabi debut. Another debutant, Michael Roll, added 16 for the winners. Nikos Zisis led Bamberg with 16 points and 5assists.
Olympiacos Piraeus overcame Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz 75-64 in Crete behind 17 points from veteran forward Georgios Printezis. The victory marked the Reds’ sixth consecutive win against Baskonia and its 13th straight home win against the Spanish powerhouse. Olympiacos trailed early, but Nikola Milutinov scored 7 first-quarter points to put his team up 16-12 after 10 minutes and Dimitrios Agravanis helped push the difference to 41-33 at halftime before the hosts pulled away in the third quarter. Toko Shengelia led Baskonia with 13 points.
In a battle of champions that literally came down to the final shot, Unicaja Malaga sent a message that echoed all around the league by edging Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul 68-67 in front of over 8,000 fans at home. Unicaja used a balanced offense to down the defending champions, with eight players scoring at least 5 points, led by center Giorgi Shermadini, who had 12. Kostas Sloukas led Fenerbahce for 15 points, but missed a jumper to win the game at the buzzer. Fenerbahce led for the better part of the game but a 19-3 fourth-quarter run gave Unicaja a 68-60 lead with less than three minutes remaining. Fenerbahce clawed to within 68-67, but could not complete the comeback.
A pair of returnees to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague put on a hard-fought clash before Khimki Moscow Region defeated Valencia Basket 75-70 thanks to a 10-minute stretch of second-half defense that held the visitors without a field goal.Valencia making a 4-18 takeover surge after halftime to lead 47-54, but Khimki struck back with its own 19-3 blast to not only take over the lead but to put it out of reach. Alexey Shved paced the winners with 19 points while newcomer Thomas Robinson came off the bench for 16 and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes. Erick Green led Valencia with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Tibor Pleiss scored 13.
In a thriller that went down to the final shot, Zalgiris Kaunas held off Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 78-76 in front of a packed Zalgirio Arena on Friday night. In a clash in which neither team had a lead bigger than 7 points through the 40 minutes, the game came down to the final 15 second of the final Zvezda possession which ended with Taylor Rochestie missing a tough three-pointer which would have won the game for visitors. Among five double-digit Zalgiris scorers, Paulius Jankunas scored 15, Kevin Pangos netted 14, and Edgaras Ulanovas had 11 in victory. Milko Bjelica scored 18, and Pero Antic had 17 in Zvezda defeat.
In a big battle between Turkish Airlines EuroLeague giants getting the season started, FC Barcelona downed Panathinaikos Athens 98-71 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday as Kevin Seraphin and Adrien Moerman combined for 40 points and 20 rebounds. Moerman and Seraphin helped Barcelona get a 24-20 lead at the end of the first quarter. Barcelona boosted its margin to 40-35 at halftime and then again to 51-35 late in the third quarter, keeping full control of the game until the final buzzer. Barcelona outrebounded Panathinaikos by 40-27.