Round 19: Crowded at the edge of the playoff zone
At the end of an eventful Round 19, just two victories separate eight teams sitting between fifth place and 12th in the standings. The big winners were the lone road warriors as six of the eight played games – Real Madrid vs. Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade was postponed due to the snowstorm that shut down the airports in the Spanish capital – were won by the home teams. Nick Calathes dished a club-record 15 assists in FC Barcelona's road win at Khimki Moscow Region and Kostas Sloukas starred for Olympiacos Piraeus in an overtime win at Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv. FC Bayern climbed into fourth place with a narrow win over Zenit St. Peterburg. The two-round week for January continues with the first three games of Round 20 on Thursday.
Khimki Moscow Region 75-87 FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona won its seventh straight game against Khimki Moscow Region 75-87 on Tuesday night at Arena Mytishchi in the Russian capital. The visitors led by as many as 20 before Khimki closed the gap late. Barcelona dominated the glass 22-44, including 16 offensive rebounds in improving its record to 13-6. Cory Higgins and Kyle Kuric scored 18 points apiece to lead Barcelona, Rolands Smits added 12 points, Alex Abrines had 11, Pierre Oriola tallied 9 points and 10 rebounds and Nick Calathes scored 8 points and set a club record with 15 assists. Alexey Shved paced Khimki with 23 points and 6 assists, Devin Booker scored 13, Jordan Mickey 11 and Errick McCollum 10 as Khimki lost its 11th straight game to fall to 2-17.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 84-76 ALBA Berlin
Anadolu Efes Istanbul came back from double-digit deficits at home to defeat ALBA Berlin 84-76 on Tuesday in the first of two games this week for both teams. The victory lifted Efes to 10-9 while ALBA dropped to 7-12 with its fifth loss in six games. ALBA held Efes to only a three-pointer in the game's first 5 minutes then used an 18-26 second quarter to lead 36-44 at the half. However, Efes did even better with a 26-9 third quarter, including a 9-0 finishing run, to take control of the scoreboard the rest of the way. Vasilije Micic, Adrien Moerman and Shane Larkin paced Efes with 15 points each. Following them were Rodrigue Beaubois with 11 and James Anderson with 10. ALBA got 17 points from Jayson Granger, 14 from Ben Lammers and 11 from Maodo Lo, but no other visitors reached double digits.
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 96-76 TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul had its best offensive performance of the season as it extended its winning streak to four games by beating visiting TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 96-76 on Tuesday night. Both teams now hold 9-10 records, but Fenerbahce claimed the potential head-to-head tiebreaker with this 20-point win. Fenerbahce took the lead for good early and had its first double-digit margin after 10 minutes. Jan Vesely and Nando De Colo paced the hosts, but Baskonia fought to keep in touch in the first half. But Fenerbahce had a strong finish to the second quarter and a good defensive start of the third, increasing the margin to 60-44 and never looking back as it went on to set a club record with 29 assists. De Colo netted a season-high 27 points, Vesely had 17 and Lorenzo Brown scored 14 points in the victory. Alec Peters paced Baskonia with 15 points, while Zoran Dragic and Achille Polonara had 12 points apiece in a losing effort.
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 87-89 Olympiacos Piraeus
In a battle of former Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champions that went to overtime, Olympiacos Piraeus confirmed its good form by downing Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 87-89 at Menora Mivtachim Arena on Tuesday. Olympiacos improved to 10-8, registered its third consecutive win and its sixth road victory of the season. Meanwhile, Maccabi dropped to 8-11 and is 0-2 against Olympiacos this season. Kostas Sloukas shined for the winners with 21 points and 11 assists. Giannoulis Larentzakis added 13 points, Georgios Printezis had 12 and Shaquielle McKissic got 10 for Olympiacos. Scottie Wilbekin led Maccabi with 25 points. Elijah Bryant scored 15, Ante Zizic 12 and Othello Hunter 11. Sloukas hit free throws to force overtime, 73-73. Maccabi kept its chances open until the final seconds but Bryant's final midcourt shot hit the rim.
AX Armani Exchange Milan 95-80 Valencia Basket
AX Armani Exchange Milan blasted past Valencia Basket with a convincing 95-80 to solidify its position in the playoffs places and claim the head to head advantage between the teams. The home side raced into a 54-36 half-time lead behind outstanding long-range shooting, and maintained that advantage throughout the third quarter. Valencia briefly pulled the deficit back to single digits in the final period, but Milan raced clear again to ease home. Luigi Datome rolled back the years to score a joint career-high 27 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting. Malcolm Delaney added 17 points on 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, while Kevin Punter scored 14 and Zach LeDay had 13. Derrick Williams paced Valencia with 17 points and 5 steals, with Nikola Kalinic netting 15 and Klemen Prepelic scoring 12. Milan improves to 11-7, and Valencia is now 10-9.
CSKA Moscow 83-73 Zalgiris Kaunas
In a battle of long-time rivals, CSKA Moscow grabbed its seventh consecutive home win in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season by downing Zalgiris Kaunas 83-73 at Megasport Arena on Wednesday. CSKA improved to 15-4 and is guaranteed to continue holding first place alone in the standings through the end of this double-round wee. Meanwhile, Zalgiris dropped to 11-8 and saw its six-game winning streak come to an end. Mike James led the winners with 21 points. Toko Shengelia added 18, Darrun Hilliard 17, Johannes Voigtmann 11 and Nikola Milutinov 10. Milutinov made his a double-double, with 14 rebounds, while Nikita Kurbanov dished a career-high 7 assists for CSKA. Zalgiris got 16 points from Marius Grigonis, 14 from Thomas Walkup and 11 each from Nigel Hayes and Lukas Lekavicius. CSKA led 18-11 after 10 minutes and boosted its margin to 45-32 at halftime. Zalgiris managed to get within 60-57 early in the fourth quarter but James and Hilliard stepped up to make sure that CSKA cruised to yet another home win.
FC Bayern Munich 82-80 Zenit St Petersburg
FC Bayern Munich moved into fourth place by holding off Zenit St Petersburg, 82-80, in a hard-fought battle on Wednesday night. Zenit dominated the first half, leading by as much as 27-37, but Bayern fought back after the break to take its first lead midway through the third quarter. The game was tied, 56-56, after three quarters, and Bayern edged a very competitive fourth quarter to take a big win. Wade Baldwin IV led Bayern with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Jalen Reynolds and Vladimir Lucic, the latter returning from injury, both scored 15 points, and DJ Seeley added 14. Arturas Gudaitis was dominant inside for Zenit, pairing 22 points with 6 rebounds. Kevin Pangos led the offense with 17 points and 5 assists. Mateusz Ponitka scored 14 and Andrey Zubkov added 11 in defeat. The victory lifted Bayern to 12-7, while Zenit dropped to 11-6.
Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 88-71 LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
Nemanja Nedovic scored 33 points and Georgios Papagiannis netted a career-high 18 as Panathinaikos OPAP Athens snapped a three-game losing streak with an 88-71 victory over LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne on Wednesday night at OAKA. Nedovic made 5 three-pointers and 6 assists and Papagiannis added 8 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Greens, who improved their record to 6-12 on the season. Dinos Mitouglou contributed 11 points and 9 rebounds to the winning effort, the first victory for Kostas Charalampidis as the club's interim head coach. Norris Cole paced the ASVEL attack with 15 points, David Lighty netted 13 and Moustapha Fall amassed 10 points and 9 rebounds. The loss dropped ASVEL to 5-13 on the season. The game was tied 42-42 late in the second quarter before a Nedovic three gave Panathinaikos the lead for good and the Greens' defense held ASVEL to just 29 points in the second half.
Real Madrid 77-79 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
After waiting almost a week to get there, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade ambushed Real Madrid in the Spanish capital for a much-needed 77-79 road victory on Monday in a Round 19 game that had been rescheduled due to a snowstorm. Zvezda raised its record to 7-13 by breaking a four-game losing streak away from home, while Madrid fell to 13-7 and missed the chance to tie FC Barcelona in second place. Corey Walden scored 16 of his 18 points as Zvezda established consistent leads in the first half. Ognjen Dobric followed him with 13 points, while Duop Reath scored 10, but the big star for Zvezda was a defense that let no Real player surpass the 11 points that Rudy Fernandez scored off the bench. Nicolas Laprovittola, Gabriel Deck, Trey Thompkins and Jeffery Taylor each added 10 points for the hosts.