Top 16, Round 1: New group openers put eight winners on right track!
One group winner and two second-place teams from the regular season were the first victims of the intensified finals-like atmosphere as the Top 16 blasted off this week. The calling cards left by three of the regular season's best teams could not have been clearer: Unicajadominated Lottomatica Roma on the road, 75-88, as a spectacular Marcus Haislip starred with 22 points; Tau Ceramica manhandled visiting Asseco Prokom 99-77 as Igor Rakocevic, Mirza Teletovic and Sergi Vidal combined for 62; and CSKA Moscow did it with defense, winning 48-66 as Fenerbahce Ulker suffered the lowest point total by a home team in Top 16 history. However, the Top 16 showed its teeth, too, as the regular season team with the best record fell hard when Real Madrid edged archrival Regal FC Barcelona 85-83 in comeback fashion with Sergio Llull and Louis Bullock scoring 18 points each. Mighty guests went home disappointed elsewhere, too, asArmani Jeans Milano outlasted Olympiacos 76-74 as Luca Vitali and David Hawkins split 30 points whileCibona rallied from 12 points behind to stop mighty Montepaschi Siena 88-81 with Earl Calloway posting 24 points. Two more big winners, both of whom finished third in the regular season, remained to be counted:Panathinaikos pulled away to an 81-63 victory over Partiza Belgrade as Nikola Pekovic punished his former team with 26 points; similarly, Maccabi Electra blasted Alba Berlin 96-65 as Lior Eliyahu and D'Or Fischer combined for 43 points, 16 rebounds. Considering that eventual playoff qualifiers went 19-5 in Top 16 opening games over the previous three seasons, Week 1's eight winners certainly got off on the right foot of the Euroleague's second round.