Game Center: Race tightens as Real rejoins Barca at top
Round 22 will be remembered for making abundantly clear just how tight the playoffs race is becoming. At the top of the standings, Real blasted host ALBA on Thursday to match Barcelona with 16 wins after the latter fell at UNICS, which joined a four-way tie four fourth place at 12-7. Two other teams in that tie, Olympiacos and Zenit, lost on Thursday, as did CSKA on Friday to a historically stingy defense by Milan, which took over sole possession of third place at 13-6. Also on Friday, defending champ Efes needed a last-second game-winner to cling to the eighth and final playoff spot with a 10-10 record, tied on victories with 10-11 Monaco after its road win in St Petersburg the night before. Meanwhile, Fenerbahce (9-10) erased a 17-point deficit to beat Zalgiris and tie on victories with Bayern and ASVEL, who downed Baskonia and Zvezda, respectively. Right behind them is Maccabi (8-11), which ended an eight-game losing streak by beating Olympiacos, leaving 10 teams between fourth and 13th place sitting just four victories apart.
UNICS Kazan 70-64 FC Barcelona
UNICS Kazan collected its first victory in history over FC Barcelona by prevailing 70-64 at home in a defensive slugfest. Despite having its last three games postponed, UNICS saw Lorenzo Brown score 22 points with 8 assists and John Brown added 20 points and 7 steals while Mario Hezonja chipped in 11 points and 11 rebounds to move to 12-7 including 11 wins in the last 14 games. Barcelona used a 2-14 run to lead 17-24 midway through the second quarter, and the guests remained ahead until midway through the third quarter when UNICS reeled off 12 straight points to lead by six points. The hosts kept up the defensive pressure and built the lead to 10 points in the closing minutes to get the win after famously wasting a 15-point lead and losing in overtime in Spain. Barcelona for its part welcomed back Nick Calathes but did not have the services of Nikola Mirotic in dropping its third game in the last four for a 17-5 record. Cory Higgins scored 17 points and Brandon Higgins picked up 16 points but no other Barcelona players scored more than 8 points.
Zenit St Petersburg 77-86 AS Monaco
AS Monaco recorded its fourth consecutive victory on Thursday by defeating Zenit St Petersburg 77-86 at Sibur Arena. Mike James led the way with 21 points and 5 assists, Dwayne Bacon added 20 points and Donatas Motiejunas posted 16 points and 8 rebounds to lead Monaco, which improved to 9-11 on the season. Zenit, which trailed for all but a few seconds in the second quarter, could not overcome the absences of Arturas Gudaitis and Conner Frankamp and fell to 12-7. Jordan Mickey was Zenit’s top scorer with 18 points and 5 blocks, Dmitry Kulagin and Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 12 points apiece and Sergey Karasev scored 10 in defeat.
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 73-67 Zalgiris Kaunas
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul erased a 17-point third-quarter deficit before defeating visiting Zalgiris Kaunas 73-67 at Ulker Sports and Event Hall on Thursday night. The hosts trailed for 37 minutes, but never gave up and capped their rally with a 14-2 run in the last 4 minutes to get the win and improve their record to 9-10. Marko Guduric led the way with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals for a PIR of 27, his best this season. He found great help from teammates Shemus Hazel, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half, and Achille Polonara, who had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Edgaras Ulanovas set the tone for the visitors with 16 points and 7 rebounds, Karolis Lukosiunas recorded career-highs in three-pointers made (5) and points (15) and Marek Blazevic signed off a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Zalgiris, which dropped to 3-15.
ALBA Berlin 74-89 Real Madrid
Real Madrid showed its class in claiming a 74-89 victory over ALBA Berlin in the German capital on Thursday. Real took control in the first half, holding several double-digit leads after making a 0-8 run early in the second quarter. ALBA cut the margin to 6 points in the third quarter but Real soon raced away again, sealing the outcome long before the final buzzer. Thomas Heurtel led the winning team with 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Vincent Poirier scored 13, Guerschon Yabusele added 12 and Trey Thompkins had 10. ALBA guard Maodo Lo was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, with Marcus Eriksson and Ben Lammers contributing 10 apiece in defeat. Real improves to 16-3 at the top of the standings after four straight wins, while ALBA is now at 6-12 third from bottom.
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 84-69 Olympiacos Piraeus
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv finally returned to the winning column as it convincingly beat Olympiacos Piraeus 84-69 to snap an eight-game losing streak. It was Maccabi’s first EuroLeague game of 2022 and the first time the team has played since an Israeli League contest on January 3. Ante Zizic led the way with 23 points for Maccabi, which won for the first time since beating AS Monaco 95-84 in Round 10 on November 17, 2021, and improved to 8-11. Keenan Evans scored 14 points, Scottie Wilbekin added 13 and James Nunnally produced 11 points and 4 assists. Neither team could pull away until a 15-4 Maccabi run to lead by 11 points in the third quarter. And Maccabi held Olympiacos to just 1 free throw in the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter. Olympiacos dropped its second straight game to fall to 12-7 - including a 3-7 record on the road. Georgios Printezis was the top scorer for the guests with 13 points while Tyler Dorsey scored 12 points against his former team.
CSKA Moscow 57-67 AX Armani Exchange Milan
In a battle of powerhouses, AX Armani Exchange Milan defended as well as any team this century on CSKA Moscow's court to defeat the hosts 57-67 and retain sole possession of third place in the standings. Milan took its record up to 13-6, including 2-0 against CSKA, which dropped to 12-8. Devon Hall and Troy Daniels paced the winners with 13 points apiece. Kyle Hines added 12 for Milan. Iffe Lundberg led CSKA with 15 points while Toko Shengelia added 13. Giampaolo Ricci and Troy Daniels each struck from downtown twice in the first quarter to help Milan take a 10-23 advantage after 10 minutes. Marius Grigonis and Lundberg stepped up for CSKA, bringing their team within 33-34 but Trey Kell and Hines restored a 35-40 Milan lead at halftime. Hines and Kell fueled a 0-10 run that broke the game open, 46-62, early in the fourth quarter, and Milan did not find problems after that in cruising to a big road victory.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 82-81 Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
A last-gasp three-pointer from Adrien Moerman gave Anadolu Efes Istanbul a thrilling 82-81 victory over Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Friday night. It was a close game throughout, as Panathinaikos unleashed a flurry of three-point shooting to lead 39-42 at the break. The third quarter saw a series of lead changes, and it was 65-62 heading into the last ten minutes. Panathinaikos rallied to hold a 73-76 edge midway through the fourth and it was a nail-biting finish until Moerman struck from deep with 2 seconds remaining. Vasilije Micic led Efes with 20 points but missed all 7 of his three-point attempts. Moerman contributed 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots. Bryant Dunston scored 14, Shane Larkin had 11 and Krunoslav Simon netted 10. Nemanja Nedovic paced Panathinaikos with 20 points, while Daryl Macon Jr. scored 17 and Okaro White added 15. Efes improves to 10-10 to reclaim a playoffs place, and Panathinaikos drops to 4-15.
Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 77-84 FC Bayern Munich
FC Bayern Munich broke its four-game road losing streak by beating Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 77-84 at Buesa Arena on Friday. Bayern improved to 9-11 in the standings while Baskonia dropped to 7-13. Othello Hunter, Corey Walden and Augustine Rubit led the winners with 17 points apiece, and DeShaun Thomas added 13. Wade Baldwin led Baskonia with 23 points. Simone Fontecchio and Matt Costello each added 12 while Tadas Sedekerskis had 11 for the hosts. Sedekerskis shined early to give Baskonia a 15-6 lead but Thomas and Hunter allowed Bayern to get within 17-16 after 10 minutes. Nick Weiler-Babb, Walden and Rubit fueled a mammoth 0-17 run that gave the guests a 33-42 lead at halftime. Vladimir Lucic and Hunter took over after the break but Baldwin kept the hosts within 71-73 midway through the fourth quarter, before Hunter and Walden made the difference down the stretch.
LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne 69-67 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne picked up an important victory in its fight for the playoffs as it knocked off Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 69-67 at home. ASVEL had dropped six of its last seven games but grabbed the win to improve to 9-11 - including 7-4 at the Astroballe. Zvezda gained control early with a 4-17 run to pull ahead early in the second quarter. Paul Lacombe inspired a comeback and ASVEL nosed ahead in the third quarter. The game went back and forth the rest of the way until Chris Jones hit the game-winning layup with 26 seconds to play. Jones and Lacombe both scored 17 points to pace ASVEL, which was playing without leading scorer Elie Okobo. Ognjen Dobric poured in 20 points and Aaron White scored 12 points for Zvezda, which fell to 7-12 after its fourth loss in the last five games. The Serbian champ was playing its first EuroLeague game since December 30 and its first game overall since an Adriatic League game on January 2.