Regular Season, Round 9: Three more Top 16 tickets claimed
The 2014-15 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season hit crunch-time as three teams claimed Top 16 tickets and several do-or-die Round 10 games were set up. ALBA Berlin from Group B, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan from Group C and Laboral Kutxa Vitoria from Group D all won to advance in Round 9. Two spots remain open with three teams in contention in Group A, while two teams vie for the remaining spot in Group D. It was a good week for road teams – half of them one – and for fans of exciting basketball with two games going to overtime!
Nothing has been decided after the Round 9 games in Group A on Friday, with first place still up for grabs, as well as two more Top 16 tickets on the line in the final week of the regular season. In the first game on Friday, Unics Kazan beat Zalgiris Kaunas 73-60 to improve its chances of advancing. With the score tied at 42-42 in the third quarter, Unics took the lead for good with a 9-0 run, paving its way for an important win. James White finished with 12 points to pace the winners. Nizhny Novgorod edged Anadolu Efes Istanbul 61-65, keeping its Top 16 chances alive. Playing without injured guard and league-leading scorer Taylor Rochestie, Nizhny displayed a great effort, and won it on a pair of late Dimitriy Khvostov three-pointers. Khvostov finished with 14 points, and Trey Thompkins also scored 14 along with 8 rebounds. Next week, Nizhny hosts Unics Kazan, with both teams knowing a win will propel them into the next stage. Zalgiris also keeps its destiny its own hands, needing a win in Round 10 next week to advance to the Top 16. Real Madrid downed Dinamo Banco di Sardegna Sassari 58-83 on the road to go top of the first place with a 7-2 record. Felipe Reyes led the winners with 14 points and 6 rebounds off the bench, playing one of the key roles in a game-breaking 1-21 fourth quarter that sealed the outcome.
A big effort from Jamel McLean led ALBA Berlin to a hard-fought 65-71 win at Limoges, and a place in the Top 16. The Berliners led for the majority of the game, but took the lead for good in the third quarter with a 0-9 run, and Vojdan Stojanovski hit two key three-pointers in the fourth to hold off the hosts’ attempt to come back. McLean finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists to carry ALBA into the Top 16. On Thursday, CSKA Moscow rallied to beat Unicaja Malaga 75-76 in overtime to become the lone undefeated team the Euroleague this season through nine games. The Muscovites came back from a 20-point third quarter deficit; Unicaja led 49-29, but Sonny Weems and Manuchar Markoishvili each hit back-to-back threes and Nando De Colo joined them to lead the visitors back in the game. It was 66-66 at the end of regulation, and De Colo made a pair of baskets in the final 30 seconds of overtime, including a layup-plus-foul with 6 seconds to go for the victory. De Colo scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, while Weems had 12 points, 7 boards and 4 assists. Unicaja tied the Euroleague record for offensive rebounds in a single game with 25. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv defeated Cedevita Zagreb 71-82 to clinch second place in the group. The teams entered the fourth quarter with Maccabi up 53-54, however, the champs dominated the fourth quarter, using a 6-20 charge to pull away and ice the victory. Devin Smith led a balanced Maccabi attack with 14 points on 4-of-7 three-point shooting, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
There are no more available Top 16 tickets in Group C after Round 9, and no more undefeated teams either. Nemanja Bjelica scored a layup with 2.9 seconds left in overtime, as Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul edged FC Barcelona 89-91, avenging a 2-point loss from Round 4. Fenerbahce improved to 7-2, dropping Barcelona to 8-1, but the Spanish champ remains in control of the first place race due to its much higher cumulative score difference. In a thrilling game, Bjelica was also the one who sent the game into overtime with a tip-in late in the regulation. Bogdan Bogdanovic paced the winners with 23 points. Marcelinho Huertas scored 25 for Barcelona. EA7 Emporio Armani Milan edged Panathinaikos Athens 66-64, clinching the fourth place on Thursday. The teams often traded leads throughout the hard-fought game, and Dimitirs Diamantidis had a chance to force overtime, but missed both free throws with 0.7 seconds to go. Daniel Hackett scored 21 points for Milan, which actually qualified to the Top 16 during the third quarter, when FC Bayern Munich downd PGE Turow Zgorzelec 95-89. Dusko Savanovic scored 14 of his career-high 31 points in the fourth quarter to rally the hosts from several double-digit deficits. Savanovic caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring at will and carrying the hosts to victory by going 7 of 10 for two point shots and 4 of 5 from long range. That result ended Turow’s Top 16 hopes.
There is another team in Group D that guaranteed itself a ticket for the Top 16, and it is Laboral Kutxa Vitoria after holding off Valencia Bakset 93-89 in an all-Spanish showdown on Friday night. The hosts never trailed after the first quarter, building double-digit leads on couple occasions, including 75-65 in the fourth quarter. Valencia always stayed close, but Laboral prevailed with Fabien Causuer scoring 21 points and Toko Shengelia adding 15. Nemanja Nedovic scored 17 points for Valencia which is mathematically eliminated from the Top 16 contention. Olympiacos Piraeus pulled out 64-59 victory over visiting Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade, clinching the first place in the group. Zvezda led for most of the night behind Boban Marjanovic and team defense, but in the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter, Vasilis Spanoulis stepped up with the go-ahead triple which Brent Petway soon followed with a killer from the corner to seal the deal for the hosts. Spanoulis scored 15 points to lead Olympiacos, while Oliver Lafayette added 11. Marjanovic had 17 points and 13 rebounds for Zvezda. In Round 9's opener on Wednesday, Neptunas Klaipeda downed Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul 82-72 at home on Wednesday to dramatically improve its Top 16 chances. Deividas Gailius paced the winners with 23 points and Mustafa Shakur added 16. The hosts led by 3 entering the fourth quarter, but a huge dunk by Gailius gave Neptunas a 72-65 margin and Galatasaray never recovered.
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