Top 16 Round 1: Home teams dominate thrilling openers!
The tip-off of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 brought a ton of excitement, including a pair of games decided with shots in the final seconds. Khimki Moscow Region’s Alexey Shved and Dario Saric of Anadolu Efes Istanbul ended as heroes for their teams, coming up with clutch jumpers in Top 16 openers that also saw only two teams win on the road, but by 14 and 21 points – the two largest margins of the week.
Fenerbahce Istanbul held off Panathinaikos Athens 82-75 in the Top 16 opener for both teams. The hosts took control and a double-digit lead early by starting the game with a 14-0 run, but Miroslav Raduljica got the Greens going and a Vladimir Jankovic triple cut the deficit to 46-43 at halftime. The visitors melted the deficit more, and briefly went in front late in the third quarter, 56-58. But the hosts finished the third quarter with 6 straight points, then big men Ekpe Udoh inside and Pero Antic from downtown hit big shots down the stretch to restore a double-digit margin and lift Fenerbahce to victory and keep it perfect on its home floor this season. Udoh finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in victory. Malcolm Delaney dominated as Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar beat Cedevita Zagreb 75-89 on the road. Delaney posted career highs of 31 points and a 41 performance index rating, matching the second-best of the season so far. His 24 points in the first half pushed Lokomotiv to take over the scoreboard after Cedevita had led 27-22 early in the second quarter. Delaney was content to dish most of his 8 assists after halftime, with Chris Singleton heating up for 16 points for the winners. In an outstanding showdown that went down to the wire, Anadolu Efes Istanbul edged Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 85-84. Dario Saric became the hero by hitting the game-winning jumper with 3.1 seconds left. Bryant Dunston led the winners with 21 points on 7-of-8 two-point shooting. An unstoppable Maik Zirbes put the guests ahead 44-54 at halftime and Stefan Jovic and Zirbes kept pushing Zvezda after the break to make it 55-70 late in the third quarter. But Dunston, Saric and Jayson Granger stepped up for Efes early in the fourth quarter to set up an exciting finish. In the first game in the group on Tuesday, Unicaja Malaga downed Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 70-62 at home. Edwin Jackson scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the winners. The visitors led through the first half and were up 29-32 at halftime, but Jackson had 7 points in a 10-0 fourth-quarter run that sealed the outcome.
The Game of the Week came from Group F, where Olympiacos Piraeus beat FC Barcelona Lassa 74-62 at Peace and Friendship Stadium. Vassilis Spanoulis starred with 11 points and 9 assists to pace the Reds, who finished the first half on a 16-2 tear to lead 39-26 and then added a 10-0 third-quarter run to pull away for good. The hosts also outrebounded Barcelona 41-30. In an all-Russian showdown that got the Top 16 started, Khimki Moscow Region topped visiting CSKA Moscow 91-89 at Krylatskoye Arena in the Russian capital. The game went down to the wire before a mid-range jumper by Alexey Shved gave Khimki the victory with 1.1 seconds left. Shved led the winners with 28 points - 22 of them in the second half. Tyrese Rice added 22 points for Khimki. On Wednesday, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz went on the road to start its Top 16 in style by beating Zalgiris Kaunas 68-89. Laboral used a 0-14 run to pull away in the first quarter and increased the margin to 27 points in the second. Zalgiris came within 9 points at the end of the third quarter, but a 0-10 fourth-quarter run sent the visitors soaring as Darius Adams led five Laboral scorers in double figures with 16 points and Mike James added 15. In the last game of the round, defending champion Real Madrid rallied to edge Brose Baskets Bamberg 82-79. Bamberg led for the first 32 minutes, by as many as 14 points in the second quarter and by 30-40 at halftime. But Sergio Rodriguez scored all of his 22 points after the break, including a key three-pointer with 20.7 seconds left to break 77-77 tie, as Madrid held on. Rodriguez also dished 8 assists, pacing the champs to victory.
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