Euroleague: Groups heat up in Top 16

EuroleagueAfter Round 11 of the Euroleague Top 16, it seems as though the tussle for the remaining qualification places will go down to the wire. With just three rounds left of this stage there is a three way stand off for the fourth and final Playoff position in both Groups E and F. Third place in both groups is also still in the balance and it seems there will be some disappointed clubs amongst the Euroleague elite when he Top 16 is over.

Group E

Panathinaikos vs. Fenerbahce, 76-67
Greek giant Panathinaikos took pole position to reach the Playoffs by defeating Turkish club Fenerbahce in Athens. Mike Bramos went 7-8 from beyond the arc as he paced the winning effort with a 21 point haul, tying a club record for downtown scores in the process. After a tight first half the Greens powered past a dangerous Fenerbahce team in the third and fourth quarters to make it a comfortable victory by the final buzzer. The game marked the return of legendary Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic, who made an emotional return to the club as Fener head after departing Athens in 2012. Panathinaikos now owns third place with a 6-5 record, while Fenerbahce is locked in the fight for fourth with Olympiacos and Malaga with a 5-6 record.

EA7 Armani Milano vs. Anadolu Efes, 76-69
Milan´s stunning Euroleague Top 16 form continued this week as the club welcomed Turkish team Efes to Italy and claimed a home win. The victory kept Milan in sole possession of second place with an 8-3 record, and although qualification to the next round is not yet assured, it seems it is just a formality before Milan progress. Efes stayed with EA7 through the first and even led 37-39 on the midway buzzer and maintained an advantage through 30 minutes, with the score at 49-53. The hosts responded with a big final 5 minutes to reel in the deficit and secure a victory that in the process knocked Efes from the competition.

FC Barcelona vs. Unicaja Malaga, 61-77
In this all Spanish clash, Barcelona continued its hot streak by travelling to Malaga and taking out Unicaja in another impressive victory. The plaudits have been heaped upon Barca through the Top 16, and rightly so as the team now holds an 11-0 record, is qualified for the playoffs, and extended its record Top 16 run to 23 consecutive games. The visitors led at the end of each stanza and Malaga could only follow in an attempt to keep the score stable. Ante Tomic continued his strong form for Barcelona with a double-double 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Olympiacos vs. Laboral Kutxa Vitoria, 89-59
Olympiacos recovered from a rocky few weeks to beat down and out Laboral Kutxa at home. It was a cruising victory for the current double Euroleague champs as the team put 30 points on a struggling Vitoria. The Reds have lost four in a row and fears of missing out on a playoff berth are still very real as the Greek giant is locked in a three way tie with Fenerbahce and Unicaja at 5-6. The hosts used a 14-0 run in the first quarter to cease an early initiative in the game and never look back.

Group F

Real Madrid vs. CSKA Moscow, 93-79
Both Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow have booked a place in the playoffs after Los Blancos exacted revenge on CSKA for an earlier Top 16 defeat. Madrid controlled the game and used a solid second half to pull away from a classy Moscow team that was always a threat, largely because of a blockbuster performance from Sonny Weems. Madrid had their own go to guy in the form of Rudy Fernandez as the club broke a Euroleague record by conceding just two turnovers, an impressive feat against the best D in the competition.

Full Game Report

Partizan NIS Belgrade vs. Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv, 72-70
Partizan NIS kept its playoff hopes alive with a narrow home win over the much favoured Tel-Aviv. The Serbian powerhouse were staring defeat and elimination from the competition in the face with the score at 69-70 with 24 second left. However, that is an age in Basketball and it was plenty of time for the ever impressive Bogdan Bogdanovic to sink from downtown to secure the win. Belgrade now sits 7th with a 3-8 record, but qualification looks unlikely, while Electra still holds third place with a 7-4 record.

Zalgiris Kaunas vs. Lokomotiv Kuba, 85-86
It seems every week Lokomotiv is locked in a nerve shredding encounter, and Round 11 proved no different as the Russian club once again showed its fighting quality. However, it should have been an easier finish as Kuban lead by 10 in the third period. Zalgiris may be out of playoff contention in last place but the team fought back to make Lokomotiv sweat down the stretch. The Russians held on and now sit locked with Galatasaray and Bayern Munich at 5-6 in the fight for fourth.

Galatasaray Liv Hospital vs. Bayern Munich, 76-69
Galatasaray showed its playoff credentials by beating a typically resilient Bayern Munich in front of 10,000 fans in Istanbul. The Turkish team lead throughout the game and managed to control a Bayern team that downed Real Madrid last week. Both clubs are now stuck with Lokomotiv in fourth place as the fight for the playoffs continues.

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