Top 16 Round 12: three games left!
Three playoff spots remain up for grabs after Olympiacos Piraeus claimed its spot on Thursday. The action on the first two days of Top 16 Round 12 saw some signature players record career highs. After FC Barcelona opened things with a road win in Kaunas, all four Thursday games were won by the home teams. Friday features a rematch of the 2014 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Championship Game!
Action in Group E spans three days. It started Wednesday, when FC Barcelona eliminated host Zalgiris Kaunas with a resourceful 72-83 road win. The victory was Barcelona's sixth in a row in Group E. If third-place Maccabi Electra (7-2) loses away to group leader Real Madrid (9-2) on Friday, Barcelona will clinch home-court advantage in the playoffs. The difference in the result could be attributed to Barcelona's depth, as its bench outscored that of Zalgiris 37-23. Alex Abrines, part of that effort, led the visitors with 16 points, hitting back-to-back fourth-quarter triples to put the game out of reach at 60-75. Tibor Pleiss added 14 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. Zalgiris tried to ride scorer James Anderson on his birthday to the upset, but despite his 24 points in the first three quarters, could not get more from him. Friday’s Real Madrid vs. Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv clash is a re-match of last season's Turkish Airlines Euroleague Championship Game. Victory in that showdown would also give Madrid home-court advantage in the next round. Madrid dominates on both ends of the floor, ranking first in the Top 16 in assists (22.0) and second in points (87.2), while its defense ranks second, allowing 71.7 points, and forces a league-best 15.6 turnovers. Meanwhile, Maccabi's defense takes great care of the paint, ranking first in the Top 16 in blocks (4.7), second in defensive rebounds (27.0), and holding opponents to a league-low 46.2% two-point accuracy. In an exciting showdown that went down to the wire, ALBA Berlin bested Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade 73-68 in the German capital to improve to 6-6 and remain strong in the fight for a playoffs spot. Zvezda was mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt. Marko Banic paced the winners with 18 points on 8-of-10 two-point shooting. Alex Renfroe added 13 points and 6 assists, while Reggie Redding dished a career-high 11 assists for ALBA. Boban Marjanovic led Zvezda with career-high numbers - 27 points and a performance index ranking of 40. He added 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double this season. Charles Jenkins added 19 points for the guests. ALBA led 39-22 at halftime, but Marjanovic took over after the break to spark Zvezda, which tied the game at 61-61 with six minutes left. However Leon Radosevic and Renfroe rescued ALBA and a jumper by Redding sealed the outcome, 71-64, with less than two minutes remaining.
In an epic battle that neither team led by more than 6 points through the first 35 minutes, Olympiacos Piraeus owned the finish to take an 86-75 victory over visiting Anadolu Efes Istanbul and punch its ticket to the playoffs on Thursday. Despite playing without three injured regulars - Vassilis Spanoulis, Kostas Sloukas and Brent Petway - Olympiacos raised its record to 9-3 and assured its place in the next round. Efes dropped to 5-7 but stayed tied for the fourth and final playoff spot. The game was marked by Dusan Ivkovic coaching from the Peace and Friendship Stadium visiting bench in a Euroleague game for the first time since he and Olympiacos won their second title together in 2012. His Efes team put up a battle that featured 10 lead changes and 10 ties during the first three-and-a-half quarters as Stratos Perperoglou matched his career high with 5 three-pointers against his former team. But Olympiacos found a spark in Ioannis Papapetrou, who had played just 12 minutes in two games this season before Thursday. His 10 points in five minutes to start the final quarter rallied the Reds offense to score 33 points in that quarter on the way to victory. Oliver Lafayette led the winners with 17 points, while Georgios Printezis scored 14 and pulled 12 rebounds. Perperoglou led Efes with 23 points. Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul beat Unicaja Malaga 78-63 on its home floor for its ninth consecutive Top 16 victory. The Turkish champs improved to 10-2. Andrew Goudelock scored 22 points and Nemanja Bjelica totaled 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks to lead the charge. Unicaja started strong and scored the game’s first 7 points. It was 19-21 after 10 minutes and after Fener took control in the second quarter, Unicaja closed to within 3 in the closing seconds. But Bogdan Bogdanovic’s three-quarter’s court buzzer-beater made it 39-33 at the half. Then Bjelica, Bogdanovic and Goudelock combined to score 20 of Fenerbahce’s 24 third-quarter points to break the game open. The lead hit 18 and Unicaja never threatened again. Down 15 points at one point, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan rallied for a 99-85 victory over Laboral Kutxa Vitoria. Both teams remain are among four fighting for one remaining playoff berth from Group F. Despite the loss, Laboral managed to hold on to a superior point-differential in head-to-head games, having won their first contest by 19 points. Mike James led Laboral early on and the visitors opened a 26-41 second quarter lead, but the hosts used an 11-0 run to close to within 39-43 at halftime and then dominated in the third quarter. Gentile scored 13 points during that period as Milan put together a 25-6 charge, pulling away to a double-digit margin and never looking back. Gentile netted career-high 29 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting plus 7 rebounds. Samardo Samuels finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds in victory. Milan nailed 14 triples on 30 attempts. Darius Adams scored 18 for Laboral. On Friday, in an all-Russian showdown, Nizhny Novgorod (3-8) welcomes already-qualified CSKA Moscow (9-2). When the same teams faced each other in Top 16 Round 5, the game went to overtime, where CSKA win 103-95. Expect more excitement from two great offensive teams. CSKA ranks first in the Top 16 in scoring (88.8), three-point shooting (40.8%) and second in assists (19.6), while Nizhny is third in scoring (81.3) and third in knocking down three-point shots (38.5%). The game will also feature the best three scorers in the Top 16, Nizhny’s Taylor Rochestie (18.4) and Trey Thompkins (17.0), as well as CSKA’s Milos Teodosic (17.1) who also leads the league in assists (7.3).
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