Top 16, Round 1: Road warriors rule opening night
The 2014-15 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 got off to a fantastic start as road warriors outnumbered home winners in in Round 1. After action opened on the second-to-last day of the 2014, there was plenty of drama as six games finished Round 1 on the second day of the 2015. In addition to road teams dominating with five wins in eight matches, there was an overtime thriller, several comeback victories, and a pair of underdogs taking huge upsets.
In Top 16 opener, Galatasaray Liv Hospital defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 78-69 on Tuesday at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul. The Lithuanian champs led 39-47 midway through the third quarter, but a pair of baskets-plus-fouls by Zoran Erceg and some great plays by Sinan Guler turned things around. The hosts entered the fourth quarter up 57-55 and never let Zalgiris back in it. Erceg and Guler each scored 14 points to lead Galatasaray, while Carlos Arroyo added 12 points and 5 assists. Also Tuesday, Panathinaikos Athens outlasted Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 83-76 at Olympic Sports Center Athens. The Greens came back from a double-digit third quarter deficit to tie it at 68-68 on an A.J. Slaughter triple midway through the fourth quarter. Strong defense, a big jumper by Slaughter and a clutch bank shot by Dimitris Diamantidis caused the visitors to throw in the towel before the final buzzer. Esteban Batista paced the Panathinaikos attack with 16 points, Slaughter scored 8 of his 15 in the fourth quarter and James Gist scored 10 of his 15 from the free throw line for the winners. On Friday, ALBA Berlin beat FC Barcelona 80-70 at o2 World in the German capital. Reggie Redding, Jamel McLean and Leon Radosevic scored 16 points apiece to pace the hosts. ALBA trailed by as many as 14 points in the first quarter, but outscored the visitors 45-25 in the middle two quarters to take the game. And Real Madrid downed Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 72-79 in front of 18,920 fans at Kombank Arena in the Serbian capital. Rudy Fernandez led the winners with 15 points and 6 rebounds. The hosts led 40-38 early in the second quarter, however Sergio Llull, Fernandez - twice – and Sergio Rodriguez each struck from downtown in a 0-14 run that broke the game open and gave Madrid a 45-58 margin, which it protected the rest of the way.
Four games on Friday meant four road wins in Group F. In a first-time Euroleague showdown between former coaching partners, CSKA Moscow outlasted Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul 81-84 after overtime in an intense clash. The game marked the first Euroleague meeting ever between Zeljko Obradovic of Fenerbahce and Dimitris Itoudis of CSKA, who were head coach and assistant, respectively, during 13 seasons and five Euroleague titles together for Panathinaikos Athens. The teams traded leads throughout the night, and a basket by CSKA's Sonny Weems tied it at 74-74, sending the game to the extra period, where Nando De Colo's free throws and steal in the waning seconds sealed the deal. Weems and Kyle Hines led the winners with 13 points each, while Andrew Goudelock was the game's top scorer with 19 points for Fenerbahce. In the Game of the Week, Olympiacos Piraeus held off Unicaja Malaga 61-69 to start the Top 16 with a road win, too. Olympiacos took the lead for good at the end of the first quarter, and controlled the game behind its defense, while Vassilis Spanoulis masterminded the Reds’ offense with 11 points and 10 assists. Othello Hunter dominated inside with 18 points on 9 of 10 two-point shooting, including a series of big dunks. Anadolu Efes Istanbul rallied to down Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 67-72. Mirza Begic helped carry the hosts to 58-49 lead late in the third quarter, but Stratos Perperoglou scored 15 points on 3 of 4 from downtown, and Efes did not allow a basket in the final 2 minutes to get a third consecutive road win in Vitoria. Trey Thompkins had 19 points and 15 rebounds and Taylor Rochestie picked up 19 points and 8 assists as Nizhny Novgorod beat EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 59-79 in a memorable Top 16 debut. The visitors blew the game open with a 3-17 run in the third quarter, opened up 42-59 lead, and never looked back on the road to victory.