Regular Season, Round 8: The drama keeps bulding in Week 8!
After drama up and down the Turkish Airlines Euroelague’s 12 games in Week 8, little was decided except that this season is producing one of the most tightly fought races for the Top 16 in competition history. Only two more teams punched their tickets to the next stage – Panathinaikos and Union Olimpija – and that was done before the two met in a showdown for first place in Group D. Maccabi Electra clinched first place in Group A, where all five other teams are still in the hunt. The situation is wilder in Group B with a three-way tie for first place, no team yet in the Top 16 and none eliminated. Group C features two teams – Cholet Basket and Lietuvos Rytas – battling for one remaining spot, while Group D has two teams through and four hunting for the remaining spots. Lior Eliyahu scored 16 points on perfect shooting as Maccabi downed Partizan 76-62 in a game that was not as close as the final score indicates. Maccabi became the first team to secure a No. 1 seed in the Top 16 Draw and remains tied for the best record in the competition at 7-1. Caja Laboral dismissed BC Khimki 89-81 behind Mirza Teletovic’s season-high 23 points to refuel its Top 16 hopes. The two are now tied for fourth place at 3-5. In a game that went to the wire, Zalgiris edged Asseco Prokom 69-72 on a Paulius Jankunas jumper in the final minute. Marty Pocius and Travis Watson scored 16 each for the winners. Saul Blanco shined with 21 points and his team’s defense survived a late test as Unicaja held off Olympiacos 76-74, a result that gave both teams identical 5-3 records. Meanwhile Sergio Llull paced the offense and D’Or Fischer quarterbacked the defense as Real Madrid dumped Lottomatica Roma 72-50, joining the Reds and Unicaja atop Group B. Spirou Charleroi defeated Brose Baskets Bamberg 75-61 to fuel its own Top 16 hopes and damage Bamberg’s. Demond Mallet scored a Euroleague career-high 26 points and Brent Wright posted 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Belgian champs to a crucial victory and a 3-5 record. In Wednesday’s only Group C game, Montepaschi Siena downed Cibona 66-82 to become the first team to 7 wins this season. Rimantas Kaukenas had 20 points and 5 assists for the Italian champs, who booked their Top 16 spot last week. Winless Cibona was mathematically eliminated from Top 16 contention with the loss. On Thursday, Regal FC Barcelona bested Fenerbahce Ulker 69-75 led by Ricky Rubio with 10 points and 10 assists. The result gave the two 6-2 records and both have games left against Montepaschi. In a do-or-die for the home team, Lietuvos Rytas overcame Cholet Basket 92-80 to remain in the fight for the Top 16. Martynas Gecevicius scored 19 for L. Rytas, which trails Cholet by one win, but has the tiebreak advantage between them. In Group D, CSKA Moscow beat Power Electronics 73-63 to keep its slim Top 16 hopes alive. J.R. Holden came up big with 14 points, 7 assists and leadership as CSKA improved to 2-6. Then Armani Jeans Milano topped Efes Pilsen 84-70, bringing the two teams to 4-4. David Hawkins scored 24 for Milano, which is now knocking on the Top 16 door. Those results sent the other two teams in the group into the next stage before they met. Panathinaikos rallied past Union Olimpija 95-88 after trailing by 9 in the fourth quarter. Antonis Fotsis’s put-back beat the buzzer to force OT and Drew Nicholas led an 11-0 run in the extra session en route to the win. Behold as many as eight teams could crash the Top 16 barrier next week, so be sure to catch the thrills in Week 9.