Regular Season Round 16: Race for the top tightens up!
With only one road winner among eight games, Round 16 saw the difference between first and sixth place narrow to three victories in the first games of the regular season's second half, promising a great race here at the start of 2017
In the Istanbul derby, Anadolu Efes got back to its winning ways by downing Galatasaray Odeabank 84-73 on Thursday at Abdi Ipekci Arena, which both teams call their home. It was the second Efes win in two weeks over the same rival, which improved the team to 8-8, while Galatasaray dropped to 4-12. Efes took the lead for good midway through the second quarter, but did not pull away to a double-digit margin until late in the third quarter. Galatasaray kept threatening, but Efes prevailed as Bryant Dunston led the way with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Sinan Guler paced Galatasaray with 20 points.
Brose Bamberg continued its climb from the bottom of the standings by holding firm at home for an 85-65 victory over visiting FC Barcelona Lassa. Both teams now have 7-9 records now, just outside the playoff zone. Bamberg's defense was aggressive from the start and forced Barcelona into 18 turnovers, while just four players of the hosts outscored the visitors. Darius Miller hit 6 of 8 three-pointers on his way to 20 points and Janis Strelnieks matched him, while Nicolo Melli added 17 plus 13 rebounds. Tyrese Rice led Barcelona with 19 points. Aleksandar Vezenkov sparked a 3-18 run over the last two quarters that got the visitors within 6 points twice, the last time at 66-60 with 5:36 to play. Miller's sixth triple and one he dished for Theis ended that threat and Bamberg outscored Barcelona 19-5 the rest of the way.
Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv snapped a six-game losing streak by edging its former head coach David Blatt and Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul 93-92 at Menora Mivtachim Arena in an eventful contest that was only decided in the final second. The hosts, who had blown a 19-point lead in losing to Darussafaka two weeks ago in Turkey, led by 17 at halftime, but a big third quarter by the visitors saw Darussafaka take a 7-point lead early in the fourth. Maccabi regained control late, however Darussafaka made a late surge and Brad Wanamaker went to the free-throw line with 0.5 seconds left and a chance to tie it, but missed the first and Maccabi held on. Sonny Weems paced five Maccabi scorers in double figures with season highs of 24 points and 8 assists.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz routed Unics Kazan 102-70 at Fernando Buesa Arena. Baskonia improved to 11-5 in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague regular season standings, while Unics dropped to 6-10. Rodrigue Beaubois led the winners with 29 points in just 19 minutes by hitting 7 of 8 two-point shots and 5 of 8 three-pointers. Johannes Voigtmann added 14 for Baskonia, but seven other players scored at least 6 points. Keith Langford led Unics with 19 points. Baskonia's defense limited to Unics just 14-of-38 two-point shooting (36.8%).
Fenerbahce Istanbul got a big three-pointer in the final minute from James Nunnally to finally repel last-place EA7 Emporio Armani Milan with an 86-79 decision on Friday. Fenerbahce improved to 10-6 while Milan, playing without top scorer Rakim Sanders, lost its ninth straight and is now 4-12. It was 80-79 when Nikola Kalinic assisted Nunnally for his fourth three-pointer with 36 seconds left to put the game out of reach. He paced the winners with 19 points and 5 assists, while Ekpe Udoh had 18 points and 8 rebounds. Mantas Kalnietis led Milan with 20 points.
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade cruised to a convincing 61-77 victory over Zalgiris Kaunas on Friday at Zalgirio Arena. The victory was Zvezda’s third in a row and boosted the Serbian champs’ record to 8-8 and a tie for seventh place in the standings. Zalgiris lost its third straight home game in falling to 6-10. Ognjen Kuzmic scored all of his 8 points in a 2-14 first-quarter run that put Zvezda in control early and Zalgiris never seemed to recover. Marko Simonovic drained 4 of 8 three-pointers en route to 16 point for the visitors, Branko Lazic added a career-high 15 points plus 4 steals. Zvezda set a club record with 14 steals and forced Zalgiris into 20 turnovers. Paulius Jankunas led the Lithuanian champs with 10 points.
In an intense and physical Athens derby, Olympiacos Piraeus grabbed its sixth win in its last seven games by downing archrival Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens 77-69 in front of a sellout crowd at Peace and Friendship Stadium. Olympiacos improved to 11-5, while Panathinaikos dropped to 9-7. Ioannis Papapetrou led the winners with 13 points and Vassilis Spanoulis scored 12. Mike James paced Panathinaikos with 24 points and K.C. Rivers added 23 for the Greens. Olympiacos outrebounded Panathinaikos 34-27 and limited Panathinaikos to poor shooting percentages.
In a thrilling finale to Round 16 between the last two champions, Real Madrid pulled away late to beat CSKA Moscow 95-85 and reignite the battle for first place to start 2017 and the second half of the regular season. Madrid raised its record to 11-5 while CSKA fell to 12-4 with its first three-game losing streak in six years. Sergio Llull led the winners with 24 points, including some truly spectacular three-pointers, and 6 assists. Jonas Maciulis matched Llull's 4 triples and finished with 20 points.