Game Center, Round 15: Streaks ended and extended at midseason
Six teams ranked below their opponents coming into Round 15 won their games, making the standings ever tighter as the halfway point of the regular season was reached. Three teams – Real Madrid, Zalgiris Kaunas and Unicaja Malaga – pushed their winning streaks to four or more games in Round 15. At the same time, three others – Valencia Basket, FC Barcelona Lassa and Anadolu Efes Istanbul – ended losing skids of four games or more. When the dust settled, CSKA Moscow was in first place alone again as all 16 teams look for more excitement in 2018.
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul 77-79 Real Madrid
The rivalry between the winningest team in EuroLeague history and the reigning champion saw another chapter written on Thursday as Luka Doncic came within 2 rebounds of a triple-double to lead Madrid to a 77-79 road win over Fenerbahce at Ulker Sports and Event Hall. Doncic produced 20 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists to help Madrid to its fourth consecutive victory, a 9-6 record and a spot in the top half of the standings at the midway point in the regular season. Fenerbahce, which lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, also sports a 9-6 record. The game came down to the bitter end with the fourth quarter featuring six lead changes and two ties; Brad Wanamaker had two shots in the closing second to tie it, but was rejected once by Trey Thompkins and missed the next shot.
Zalgiris Kaunas 74-68 Olympiacos Piraeus
Zalgiris Kaunas finished the calendar year in impressive fashion – and on a five-game winning streak – after edging visiting Olympiacos Piraeus 74-68 on Thursday night. Zalgiris improved to 10-5 on the season, while Olympiacos dropped to 11-4. In a hard-fought game, the biggest lead of the night belonged to Zalgiris after an 11-2 fourth quarter run that put the hosts up 65-58. They never relinquished the lead again, as Kevin Pangos made clutch plays in the final minutes, and finished with 14 points and 7 assists. Arturas Milaknis also netted 14 in victory, while Ioannis Papapetrou paced the visitors in scoring with 12 points and Vassilis Spanoulis had 10 points and 7 assists for Olympiacos, which was without Georgios Printezis, Nikola Milutinov and Vangelis Mantzaris.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 78-89 Unicaja Malaga
Unicaja Malaga raced to its fourth straight victory with a 78-89 comeback triumph over Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Unicaja’s 7-8 record puts it just one victory behind Maccabi in the standings. The home team was ahead by double digits in the second quarter, but Unicaja’s defense took over in the second half, restricting Maccabi to just 31 points after the break in a game of multiple lead changes which concluded with the visitors pulling away in the final stages. Unicaja’s experienced big man Giorgi Shermadini played a key role with 15 points and 9 rebounds, while Nemanja Nedovic led all scorers with 20 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting.
Valencia Basket 67-63 Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens
Valencia Basket snapped its 10-game losing streak by edging Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens 67-63. Erick Green scored 21 as Valencia improved to 4-11 in the standings, while Panathinaikos dropped to 10-5. Matt Lojeski led the Greens with 17 points, including a three-pointer that tied the game at 63-63 late in the fourth quarter. Bojan Dubljevic stepped up with the go-ahead layup in the final minute and a couple of defensive stops and free throws by Green with 1.3 seconds left gave Valencia a big win.
Khimki Moscow Region 65-79 FC Barcelona Lassa
Barcelona let out all its frustrations from a five-game losing streak by downing host Khimki 65-79 on Friday for its first road win. With their coach from last season, Georgios Bartzokas, on the other bench, Barcelona (5-10) started legends Ante Tomic and Juan Carlos Navarro for the first time in this one and led 15-25 after one quarter. A 2-17 start to the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach as Tomic, Victor Claver and Kevin Seraphin finished with 12 points each. Pau Ribas had 8 assists and Thomas Heurtel 6 of Barcelona's 32, a club record and the fourth-highest total in EuroLeague history. Tomic's 8 rebounds led a huge 37-17 disparity on the boards. Khimki (8-7) got 22 points from Alexey Shved and 18 from Tyler Honeycutt.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 69-58 Brose Bamberg
Efes rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to down visiting Brose 69-58 and snap a four-game losing streak on Friday. Brose (6-9) was in complete control early and led 29-44 after 4 minutes of the second half. Errick McCollum fueled one Efes (4-11) run before Bryant Dunston and Derrick Brown starred in a 21-2 spurt that bridged third and fourth quarters. Efes never looked back. Brown finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, McCollum netted 19 points on 5-for-8 on three-point shooting, while Dunston amassed 10 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks in victory.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz 81-90 CSKA Moscow
CSKA showed all its resilience to overturn a big early deficit and take an 81-90 road win in a superb game at Baskonia, securing first place alone again. CSKA finished the first half of the season 12-3, while Baskonia dropped to 7-8. The home team launched an early 16-0 run to go ahead 18-5, but CSKA wasted little time in responding and stiffened its defense in the second half to move a game clear at the top of the standings. Sergio Rodriguez was the inspiration, scoring a career-high 25 points on 6-of-9 three-pointers and also registering 8 assists and 6 rebounds for a performance index rating of 35, another personal best. Toko Shengelia was outstanding for Baskonia, recording a huge double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds.
AX Armani Exchange Milan 88-91 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Crvena Zvezda grabbed its third road win of the season by edging AX Armani Milan 88-91 on Friday. Zvezda (6-9 in the standings at the regular season's halfway mark while Milan dropped to 3-12. James Feldeine led the Zvezda (6-9) with 19 points. Milko Bjelica added 18, Mathias Lessort 14 and Taylor Rochestie 10 for the winners. Vladimir Micov led Milan with 16 points, while Amath M'Baye and Dairis Bertans added 14 apiece. Milan (3-12) never led in the game but managed to tie it 83-83 on a three-pointer by Micov. Feldeine hit a floater, then Bjelica, Feldeine and Rochestie were perfect from the foul line to prevent Milan from getting a chance to take the game to overtime.