Round 23: Home cooking does the trick on Thursday
Round 23 opened with four home wins on Thursday in key games that leave an impact on the playoff. Anadolu Efes Istanbul, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan and FC Barcelona Lassa all won games that not only saw them climb in the standings, but claim tiebreak advantage over their rivals. On Friday, Real Madrid hosts FC Bayern Munich and if Los Blancos win, they will not only clinch a playoff berth, but will also bring Thursday victor CSKA Moscow into the playoffs, too.
CSKA Moscow 107-85 Herbalife Gran Canaria
CSKA was without its two top scorers, but registered its highest-scoring game of the season, easing past visiting Herbalife Gran Canaria 107-85 on Thursday night. CSKA improved to 18-5 to remain in second place in the standings, while Gran Canaria dropped to 6-17. CSKA took control early on behind Will Clyburn and Sergio Rodriguez, built a double-digit lead and kept cruising to a big win. Rodriguez paced the winners with 18 points and 8 assists and Clyburn had 17 points and 7 rebounds for CSKA, which was without Nando De Colo and Cory Higgins. Marcus Eriksson and Kim Tillie netted 13 apiece in the losing effort.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 75-65 Olympiacos Piraeus
Anadolu Efes protected its fourth place in the standings by turning back Olympiacos with a 75-65 home win on Thursday. Efes raised its record to 15-8, while sixth-place Olympiacos fell to 12-11 with its fourth straight loss. The final difference also assures Efes a head-to-head tiebreak over Olympiacos should they finish the regular season tied. Efes, which ended a five-game losing streak to Olympiacos, withstood a 0-17 run with which the visitors flipped the scoreboard to 18-26 early in the second quarter. Efes then used relentless defense to limit Olympiacos to 39 points over the game's final 28 minutes. Krunoslav Simon led Efes with 13 points, Adrien Moerman had 12 points and 8 rebounds and Shane Larkin scored 11 and dished 8 assists. Janis Strelnieks led the visitors with 14 points.
AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan 87-83 Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
AX Milan held on for a tough 87-83 victory over Maccabi on Thursday at Mediolanum Forum in the fashion capital. The win was Milan's fourth in a row, improved its record to 12-11 and saw it surge from ninth place into a share of sixth. Maccabi fell to 10-13. The game was close throughout and featured six lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. After Yovel Zoosman put the Israeli champs up 72-73 with 4 and a half minutes to go, Milan reeled off 10 unanswered points to take control for good. Mike James led the way with 19 points and 5 assists and Curtis Jerrells scored 16 off the bench. Scottie Wilbekin paced Maccabi with 20 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting.
FC Barcelona Lassa 77-67 KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
FC Barcelona Lassa continued its winning ways by downing fellow Spanish side KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 77-67 on Thursday night at Palau Blaugrana. This victory was the third straight for Barcelona and its eighth in the last 10 games, giving it a season-sweep over Baskonia and a 14-9 record for the fifth place in the standings. Baskonia dropped to 11-12 and ninth place. Barcelona took control from the start and behind its defense built a 25-point margin midway through the second quarter. The hosts never allowed Baskonia to get within single digits again. Kevin Seraphin and Pau Ribas scored 15 points apiece and Thomas Heurtel had 11 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds in victory. Shavon Shields scored 18 and Darrun Hilliard had 12 for Baskonia.