Game Center, Round 15: Race gets tighter at halfway mark
The last EuroLeague games of 2016 saw the playoffs race tighten at its halfway point in Round 15. First-place CSKA Moscow lost its second game in a row – a rarity – but stayed two victories ahead of the back. Meanwhile, just four wins now separate the second and 13th places with another 15 games coming in 2017!
Real Madrid edged Anadolu Efes Istanbul 78-80 on the road on Thursday. Madrid improved to 10-5 despite being without injured superstar Sergio Llull, while Efes dropped to 7-8. Luka Doncic stepped up for Llull, leading the winners with 17 points and 9 assists. He had career-highs in assists and performance index rating (31), while tying his best scoring night in the competition, too. Brandon Paul led Efes with 16 points. The game came down to the final play, in which Gustavo Ayon stopped Thomas Heurtel with a big block.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade never trailed in defeating defending champion CSKA Moscow 78-67 on Thursday at Kombank Arena. The hosts scored the first 13 points of the game and kept their fans involved with spectacular plays and great hustle the rest of the way. The victory lifted Zvezda into a tie for eighth place with a 7-8 record, while CSKA remained atop the standings at 12-3 despite suffering back-to-back wins for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Ognjen Kuzmic paced the victors with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Charles Jenkins posted 11 points, 6 assists and a club-record 6 steals. Andrey Vorontsevich made 5 of 9 three-pointers to lead CSKA with 21 points.
Olympiacos Piraeus held off Fenerbahce Istanbul 71-62 on Thursday at Peace and Friendship Stadium. The win improved Olympiacos to 10-5 and a share of the second place at the halfway point of the regular season, while Fenerbahce dropped to 9-6. Former Olympiacos players Kostas Sloukas and Pero Antic, who helped the team to back-to-back EuroLeague titles in 2012 and 2013, were honored at center court before the game. Olympiacos pulled away early behind Khem Birch, before a series of three-pointers had the hosts up 40-21 at halftime. Fenerbahce rallied behind Luigi Datome and Bobby Dixon, but the Reds held on. Birch finished with 10 points and 13 rebound to lead the winners. Jan Vesely amassed 22 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.
Zalgiris Kaunas delivered a powerful fourth quarter to improve to 6-9 with a 70-78 victory at Mediolanum Forum over EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, which slipped to 4-11 with its eighth consecutive loss. Zalgiris led the entire first half before Ricky Hickman and Rakim Sanders inspired a 13-0 run for Milan and the game was tied at 56-56 after three quarters. But Arturas Milaknis started the fourth quarter with a pair of triples and Zalgiris surged clear to protect its lead for good. In total Milaknis nailed 4 three-pointers to lead his team with 16 points and veteran Paulius Jankunas came close to a double-double with 11 rebounds and 9 points. Playing against his former team, Mantas Kalnietis led Milan with 16 points.
Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz put a great end to a glorious 2016 by downing Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 101-88 in front of over 14,800 fans at Fernando Buesa Arena on Thursday. Baskonia improved to 10-5 at the halfway mark of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season while Maccabi dropped to 5-10. Johannes Voigtmann paced the winners with a career-high 23 points and 9 rebounds and Toko Shengelia added 22 points. A triple by Adam Hanga midway through the third quarter marked 30,000 points for the club in the EuroLeague. Victor Rudd led Maccabi with 20 points. Baskonia forced Maccabi into 19 turnovers while committing just 8.
Unics Kazan rallied back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to stun Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens 83-81 on Friday at Basket Hall. Keith Langford starred with 27 points and 5 assists to lead the winners, who won their third straight game to improve to 6-9. Latavious Williams was a force inside with 19 points and 9 rebounds, including two key baskets in the final three minutes of the game. Nick Calathes paced the Greens with a career-high 23 points plus 6 assists. The loss snapped Panathinaikos’s four-game winning streak and dropped their record to 9-6. Panathinaikos led through the first three quarters, but Unics rallied in the third to get within 2 and the fourth quarter featured seven lead changes, but after Bourousis gave the Greens a 77-78 edge, his team missed their next 7 shots. The visitors managed to create an opportunity in the closing seconds to tie or win, but missed again.
Brose Bamberg routed Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul 75-90 at the Abdi Ipekci Arena to claim its fourth win in the last five games and advance to 6-9. After a closely contested opening quarter, the German champs surged clear in the second and never looked back. Galatasaray responded after the break, but another Bamberg spurt in the third quarter put the outcome beyond doubt as the visitors outrebounded the hosts 28-41 and converted 14 three-point shots. Daniel Theis starred for Bamberg with a big double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds and Janis Strelnieks had five triples among his 18 points. Galatasaray’s Austin Daye led all scorers with 20 points.
FC Barcelona Lassa outlasted visiting Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 81-77 at home on Friday for its second consecutive victory. Barcelona's record improved to 7-8 while Darussafaka dropped to 8-7. Ante Tomic led the winners with 16 points on 8-of-8 two-point shooting. Tyrese Rice and Sasha Vezenkov each added 13 while Justin Doellman had 11. James Anderson led Darussafaka with 21 points. Backed by solid rebounding the visitors led 35-40 at the break, but a 13-0 run by Barcelona to open the second half set the stage for a close finish in which Petteri Koponen scored all 9 of his points in the final 6 minutes for the winners.
Follow all the action as it happens LIVE on EuroLeague TV, on Twitter (@EuroLeague) and of course, right here on EuroLeague.net!