It became crowded at the top of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings after the dust settled at the close of Round 8 on Friday. Six teams are tied for first place with 6-2 records. They are CSKA Moscow, Armani Milano, Khimki Moscow Region, FC Barcelona, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Anadolu Efes – a virtual who’s who of past and recent champions of the league. Rounding out the top-8 are ASVEL and Real Madrid, who are just one game behind the leaders with 5-3 records.
After eight rounds, you’d expect there to be a dominant team, pushing passed the weaker teams and securing their spot at the pinnacle of the standings. That isn’t the case in the EuroLeague, at least not in the early goings of the 2019-20 season.
It’s literally anybody’s game right now, given how the standings have shaped up. It’s a polarized spectrum of wins and losses, but at a tight cluster on the top end. What does this mean? Well for starters, it means that none of these top teams can rest on their laurels with the competition being this fierce. There is no top-of-the-food-chain predator here. It’s dog-eat-dog or in this case top-team-beat-top-team.
Khimki Moscow Region splashed their way up the standings with an impressive win over Armani Exchange Milan 87-79. Alexey Shved was on fire, making five 3-pointers en route to his game-high 24 points and seven assists to power Khimki to victory. Luis Scola quietly led Armani with 16 points and eight boards.
FC Barcelona was knocked down a peg as they fell to their El Clasico rivals Real Madrid in a thrilling 86-76 game. These two teams have been going at it hard in every occasion that they’ve locked horns this season. Of course, nothing but 100 and 10 percent is expected by their diehard fans.
Nikola Mirotic put up a valiant effort with 19 points for Barca, but it was not enough to offset Madrid’s balanced offense, led by the 16 points and seven rebounds of Anthony Randolph. Walter Tavares was a standout on the defensive end as he recorded three blocks on the night.
CSKA Moscow secured their sixth win of the season against no less than a formidable fo in Fenerbahce Istanbul. However, thanks to the 31-point monster game by Mike James (six 3s), CSKA marched on to victory in Moscow. James has been their not-so-secret weapon this season and he definitely raised the bar as far as the firepower he brings to the table is concerned with this performance.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was excellent as they bagged a dominant 83-113 blowout road win over Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. Tornike Shenegalia played his heart out for the hosts, flirting with a double-double of 31 points and eight rebounds, but Maccabi would see six of their players score in double figures, erasing his spectacular play, led by the 20-point game of Scottie Wilbekin, who did his damage in only 18 minutes on the floor.
Last but not least, Anadolu Efes edged out a struggling Zenit St. Petersburg 90-88. Vasilije Micic and Shane Larkin combined for 46 points. It was a close game and could have actually gone either way, especially with Austin Hollins’ big night. He made 7-of-11 shots from beyond the arc to end with a game-high 26 points.
The X-factor in this game was fouls, with Zenit committing 26 compared to just 17 by Anadolu Efes. This, in turn, allowed the Turkish hosts to punish their guests from the free-throw line as they made 25-of-27 from the stripe.
Which team will finish as the top seed is anybody’s guess at this point. All we know for sure is that these teams will be in for some tight competition in the ebb and flow of the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season.