Round 15 action in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague continued yesterday, December 28th, and it did not fall short with some close and exciting games; a tone set by more than a couple of tilts on the 27th.
The biggest and arguably most important game of the round was between the league’s top two teams. Real Madrid had its sights set on that league pole position, held by Fenerbahce Istanbul. They came to Ulker arena ready to rumble and that they did as both league juggernauts battled relentlessly in a defensive grinding chess match on both ends of the floor. In the end, Gigi Datome had other plans. The Italian sank the go-ahead bucket to lift Fenerbahce 65-63 to edge out Real Madrid with six seconds left on the clock and avoid overtime. Had Real Madrid won this heartbreaker, they would have been tied with Fenerbahce 13-2 but ahead on tiebreakers, giving them the lead. Alas, the chips (or shots) fell as they did, and Fenerbahce’s roaring fans came through and the yellow shirts cling to the solo lead with an impressive 14-1 record. Clearly and undisputedly, they are the team to beat right now in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Not only have they taken all comers and had good results, but they also came through with championship-caliber performances against some of the league’s top contenders.
In fitting fashion, Datome led all Fenerbahce scorers with 17 points while adding seven rebounds. Jan Vesely added 13 points and three rebounds of his own.
It was a slow night indeed for the Spanish Powerhouse with veteran Rudy Fernandez leading the team with 12 points (three triples) and Facundo Campazzo chiming in with 11 points and six assists.
Should CSKA be concerned?
In a round characterized by some eye-opening upsets, one of the bigger ones was that of CSKA falling on the road to Panathinaikos Athens 96-84. Perhaps it was the brilliant genius of newly installed head coach Rick Pitino that paved the way to a victory by the Greens? That said, CSKA has been falling short as of late and they have not been the same dominating team they were in the early goings of the season. They are 10-5 but still hold third place in the league standings. Panathinaikos improves to 7-8 (11th) but are now on a momentum-building run that should, ideally, propel them into the top-8 sooner rather than later.
CSKA had a 19-26 lead but thanks to some solid play by Panathinaikos in the next frame the advantage and the pendulum swung their way. However, they played it smart from there and did not relinquish the lead. Not even Will Clyburn’s game-high 24 points was not enough to carry the Red Army through to victory. A balanced and unselfish attack led by the 17 points of Ioannis Papapetrou was all they need to stay King of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Hill for now.