Game Center Round 20: Tighter at the top
Two stellar showdowns among the top four teams have left the standings tighter at the top and the battle for the playoffs full of challengers. Second-place Barcelona (14-6) toppled leader CSKA (15-5) in Moscow while Real (13-6) broke its tie for third place with Bayern in overtime in Munich. Bayern (12-8) finds itself tied on victories now with Zenit (12-6) and Milan (12-7), while two other winners, Efes (11-9) and Valencia (11-9) come right behind in a trio with Zalgiris. Fenerbahce (10-10) and Maccabi (9-11) also moved up, leaving just three victories separating 10 teams between the fourth and 13th places. ASVEL was the only team of the bottom five to win, and did so on the road against Olympiacos four days before they meet again in Villeurbanne to play their rescheduled Round 10 game.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 99-60 Khimki Moscow Region
Anadolu Efes Istanbul continued its climb up the standings by dominating last-place Khimki Moscow Region for a 99-60 home win on Thursday. With its third win in the last four games, Efes raised its record to 11-9 as it continues knocking at the door of the top eight playoff places. Khimki lost its 12th straight to drop to 2-18. Sertac Sanli came off the bench to lead Efes with a career-high 19 points, 17 of them in a second half that the hosts won by 47-24. Shane Larkin followed with 15 points, while Bugrahan Tuncer and Bryant Dunston scored 12 each. Khimki got 14 points from Jordan Mickey, 13 from Alexey Shved and 10 from Devin Booker.
ALBA Berlin 70-84 AX Armani Exchange Milan
AX Armani Exchange Milan worked past a slow start to pick up a 70-84 victory over ALBA Berlin in the German capital. Zach LeDay’s 16 points paced four scorers in double figures for Milan, which improved to 12-7 as it chases home-court advantage in the playoffs. Kevin Punter and Luigi Datome both scored 14 points and Kyle Hines collected 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for the winners. ALBA lost its sixth of its last seven games despite Ben Lammers scoring 18 points and Jayson Granger going for 16 points and 6 assists. ALBA dropped to 7-13.
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 91-82 TS Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz
Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv held off TS Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 91-82 on Thursday night at Menora Mivtachim Arena. Othello Hunter and Elijah Bryant scored 14 points apiece to pace the Israeli champs, who improved to 9-11 on the season and sent Baskonia to the same record. Maccabi moved ahead of Baskonia in 12th place in the standings because it also beat the club when they met last month in Spain. Bryant and Angelo fueled a 12-2 first-quarter run that gave Maccabi the lead for good and the margin reached double figures early in the fourth quarter. Rokas Giedraitis and Alec Peters rallied Baskonia late, but Scottie Wilbekin and Bryant ensured Maccabi came away with the victory. Caloiaro finished with 12 points and Yovel Zoosman added 12 for the winners. Pierria Henry paced Baskonia with 19 points and 8 assists, Peters netted 18 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting and Giedraitis scored 12 in defeat.
CSKA Moscow 75-88 FC Barcelona
In a heavyweight battle atop the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings, FC Barcelona completed a fruitful trip to Russia by downing CSKA Moscow 75-88 at Megasport Arena on Friday. Barcelona had defeated Khimki Moscow Region in the Russian capital earlier this week and has now improved to 14-6 in the standings to stand alone in second place. Top-ranked CSKA dropped to 15-5 after registering its second home loss this season. Cory Higgins, who won two EuroLeague titles with CSKA, led Barcelona with 25 points. Alex Abrines added 19 while Nick Calathes had 13 for the winners. Mike James led CSKA with 18 points. Nikola Milutinov added 15 while Toko Shengelia and Darrun Hilliard each had 10 for the hosts. Barcelona led 41-42 at halftime, extending its margin to 56-64 after 30 minutes and then again to 62-75 to seal the outcome.
Zenit St Petersburg 77-65 Zalgiris Kaunas
Zenit St Petersburg held firm to take a 77-65 victory over Zalgiris Kaunas in a closely contested showdown on Friday night. There was nothing between the teams in a first half that ended 36-36 after 13 ties, but Zenit took charge during the second half to gradually establish a solid lead and protect its position in the playoffs places. Arturas Gudaitis led Zenit with 15 points and 8 rebounds, while Mateusz Ponitka also scored 15 and Billy Baron added 11. Thomas Walkup top scored for Zalgiris with 12 points, with Joffrey Lauvergne (11), Lukas Lekavicius (11) and Marius Grigonis (10) also scoring in double figures. Zenit improves to 12-6 and Zalgiris drops to 11-9 after suffering two defeats this week.
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 100-74 Panathinaikos OPAP Athens
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul never trailed en route to a 100-74 win over visiting Panathinaikos OPAP Athens to extend its winning streak to five games on Friday night. It's the biggest win ever over the Greens lifted Fenerbahce's record to 10-10 while Panathinaikos dropped to 6-13. Fenerbahce assumed control with an 18-0 run to finish the first quarter with a 19-point lead. Panathinaikos used its 12 offensive rebounds to stay in the game, but Fenerbahce held a 48-34 halftime lead then knocked down 5 triples in the third quarter to extend the lead to 24 points and never looked back. Marko Guduric paced Fenerbahce with 18 points, while Lorenzo Brown and Edgaras Ulanovas scored 15 apiece. Nando De Colo and Jan Vesely each added 12 points. Aaron White scored 13 points for Panathinaikos, while Konstantinos Mitoglou had 12, Howard Sant-Roos and Georgios Papagiannis 10 each. Panathinaikos pulled down a team-record 21 offensive rebounds, but still lost by 26 points.
Olympiacos Piraeus 63-69 LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne gave its best defensive effort of the season and snapped a four-game winning streak to stun Olympiacos Piraeus for a 63-69 road win on Friday night. ASVEL improved to 6-13, while Olympiacos dropped to 10-9, having its three-game winning streak snapped. ASVEL took the lead for good late in the second quarter, then allowed just 9 points in the third. A 4-14 run bridging third and fourth quarter gave the visitors a 12-point lead, and ASVEL never lost control of the game after that. Guerschon Yabusele was the only ASVEL player in double figures with 19 points, while Aaron Harrison scored 13 for Olympiacos. Shaquielle McKissic scored 11, and Vassilis Spanoulis finished with 10 in a losing effort.
FC Bayern Munich 76-81 Real Madrid
Real Madrid needed an overtime to pull off a valuable 76-81 win against FC Bayern Munich at the Audi Dome on Friday night, improving to 13-6 to stay in third place. The visitors led for almost the entire game, but three-point shooting allowed Bayern to come back late in the fourth quarter and get ahead 72-70 in crunch time. Gabriel Deck sent the game to overtime, where the host was unable to score for 4 minutes and Real took advantage to escape with the victory. Walter Tavares led the winners with a career-high 26 points and 9 boards, followed by Deck and Rudy Fernandez, who provided 12 and 10 points respectively. Bayern, which drops to 12-8, was led by Jalen Reynolds with 18 points, while Wade Baldwin IV tallied 14 and 7 boards, and Vladimir Lucic had 10 points.
Valencia Basket 91-71 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Valencia Basket snapped a three-game losing streak by downing Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 91-71 at La Fonteta on Friday night. Valencia improved to 11-9 and Zvezda dropped to 6-14 after losing its last three games. Louis Labeyrie led the winners with 16 points. Nikola Kalinic added 14, Mike Tobey 13, Derrick Williams 12 and Joan Sastre 11 for Valencia. Johnny O'Bryant led Zvezda with 21 points, and Quino Colom added 11 against his former team. Valencia led 27-15 after 10 minutes and boosted its margin to 46-30 late in the first half. Zvezda managed to get within 56-51 on a three-point play by Colom but Valencia restored a 68-57 margin after 30 minutes and never looked back.