Top 16 Game 11: The drama builds!
After a thrilling two days of Top 16 Game 11 action, the race for the tickets for the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs got even tighter, and with three weeks to go, there is still only one team that secured its place in the next stage. This week’s games featured tremendous drama, with four games decided by 3 points or less – including one in overtime. Only two teams managed to snag vital road wins, leading up to even more thrills in the coming weeks. Two teams had the potential to reach the playoffs from Group E, but one team changed that. Unicaja Malaga held off Real Madrid 74-77 in come-from-behind fashion to improve to 6-5 and stay one game behind the fourth place in the standings. Luka Zoric dominated with 21 points plus 12 rebounds and Krunoslav Simon netted 18 in Unicaja’s fourth straight road win. If Madrid had won, it would have clinched its playoff ticket as well as that of Anadolu Efes Istanbul. On Thursday, Anadolu Efes edged Brose Baskets Bamberg 89-86 after overtime. The visitors had the ball last at the end of regulation, but Casey Jacobsen’s last-second layup missed and the hosts took charge in the extra session. Jordan Farmar shined with a career-high 29 points to lead Efes, which improved to 9-2. The loss was another tough-to-swallow defeat for the German champs, who have played infinitely better than their 0-11 Top 16 record would indicate. Also Friday in Group E, CSKA Moscow defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 70-61. The Russian champions remained in the hunt for home-court advantage in the playoffs while effectively ending Zalgiris’s chances to advance. Sonny Weems led the winners with 13 points. Viktor Khryapa added 12 and 8 rebounds in his comeback. Also in Group E, Panathinaikos Athens crushed Alba Berlin 82-58 to remain in fourth place and in control of its own destiny. Jonas Maciulis led the way with 16 points plus 6 rebounds. Group F promises to be exciting till the very end after Thursday’s two 1-point games left five teams within one win of each other between send and sixth place. Defending champion Olympiacos Piraeus topped Montepaschi Siena 67-68 to bring the teams even in second place with 7-4 records. Kostas Papanikolaou and Vassilis Spanoulis struck from downtown in a 1-12 run that put Olympiacos ahead early in the fourth quarter. Siena had the ball for a final shot, but could not get the shot off. Papanikolaou and Kostas Sloukas paced the winners with 11 points apiece and Kyle Hines added a double-double. Ricky Hickman scored 14 fourth-quarter points as Maccabi Electra downed BC Khimki Moscow Region 80-79 on Thursday night at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, for its fourth straight win. After claiming the win in a thriller that featured eight lead changes and two ties in the fourth quarter alone, Maccabi improved to 6-5, the same record as Khimki and Caja Laboral. Hickman finished with 30 points and Devin Smith added 16 and 7 rebounds. Caja Laboral Vitoria eased past Fenerbahce Ulker 87-67 for its second straight win. Tibor Pleiss led the way with 14 points and 6 rebounds for Vitoria, which improved to 6-5. Andres Nocioni, Maciej Lampe and Fabien Causeue all added 12 points for Caja Laboral. In the lone Friday game of Group F, Barcelona Regal beat Besiktas JK Istanbul 86-61 to clinch home-court advantage in the playoffs. Nate Jawai amassed 16 points plus 9 rebounds in only 17 minutes on the floor to pace the Spanish champs, for whom all 12 players scored. It marked Barcelona’s ninth straight victory.