By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
With one game left in the regular season, the thriller will end for eight teams in the last week. Only EA7 Milano managed to get the qualification this week, the fate of Partizan changed while Real Madrid and Olympiacos stayed unbeaten.
In Group A, Nanterre and Partizan are sharing the fourth place (3-5), but the Serbs have the tie breaking advantage and they are hosting CSKA Moscow next week. Nanterre is hosting Fenerbahce and needs a win combined with a Partizan defeat in order to qualify to Top16.
In Group B, EA7 Milano (5-4) got the qualification and Anadolu Efes (4-5), Zalgiris Kaunas (4-5) and Brose Baskets (3-6) will fight for the next two open spots. And now comes the tricky part. Brose Baskets hosts Zalgiris next week. That means that Efes has to win unbeaten Real Madrid in the last regular season game in order to advance, or else the Turks will hope for a win of Zalgiris in Germany. Zalgiris can lose up to 9 points and still qualify in case of a Efes win. If Efes is defeated, then with a Brose win the Germans and the Lithuanians get the qualification.
And finally in Group C, despite the win of Unicaja (4-5) over Bayern (3-6) the key game for Top16 will be played next week in Florence with Siena (3-6) hosting the Spaniards. If the Italians get the win even by a point, they get the Top16 ticket. If not, then Unicaja is in and Bayern needs to win already qualified Galatasaray in order to be safe in the case of a Siena’s win.
So that makes most valuable player of the night the guy who was the key of Milan’s qualification.
Can a player acquired after the start of the season change the fate of a team? The answer in many cases is yes and that applies also to him in the 74-73 win over Brose Baskets which sealed the Top16 ticket of Milano. He was great with 17 points, 5-5 rebounds and 3 blocks and even if the Germans lost the last shot, his contribution for the ambitious Italians was more than important. He was probably the reason why Brose Baskets didn’t try to go near the paint.
- Dimitris Diamantidis: On the night he tied Igor Rakocevic at the 8th spot of the all time list in three points made in Euroleague (277) he led the Greens to the 83-62 road win against Lokomotiv with 12 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, 1 rebound and 1 turnover
- Bogdan Bogdanovic: He was the best among equals in the 79-77 win of Partizan on the road against Fenerbahce with 19 points, 5/7 threes, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and four turnovers
- Sonny Weems: 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists are good enough, especially against Barcelona in the 79-65 win of CSKA Moscow. Specially with Viktor Khryapa missing the game
- Darjus Lavrinovic: He just killed Nanterre with one of the best performances in Euroleague’s history. That translates to 29 points on 9/10 shots and 7/7 free throws, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 3 turnovers
- Gani Lawal: He was the reason we had to put Darjus and his monster performance on PF and that says enough…
Best losing performance: Mam Jaiteh
There were many good performances this week by players who were defeated, but the 19 years old NBA prospect from France did his part for Nanterre in the crucial game against Budivenlyk with a double double (14 p., 11 r.) in 22 minutes of action. The bad news are that it was not enough.
The biggest win: Partizan
The Serbs needed a little miracle in order to turn around the situation in Group A and they got it with their 79-77 win in Istanbul over Fenerbahce/ Ulker. It was a game decided to the last minute, the hosts missed two three pointers and the chance to send it to overtime with the score being 77-74 in favor of the guests . Now the club from Belgrade has the tie breaking advantage over Nanterre for the Top16 qualification, thanks the win of Budivelnyk over the French champions.
True fighters: Zalgiris, Unicaja
With their Top16 qualification on the line Zalgiris Kaunas against Anadolu Efes (65-63) and Unicaja Malaga over Bayern Munich (77-72) got important wins in the race for the second phase. It remains to be seen if that gave them at least a psychological advantage, since nothing is yet decided.
The upset: Crvena Zvezda
Andres Nocioni returned to action, Laboral Kutxa needed the win in order to keep the advantage for the third place of Group D, but the hosts in Belgrade got the 81-65 win with Jaka Blazic scoring 24 points, despite not having any hopes of advancing to Top16. That was pure pride, folks…
The underachievers: Barcelona
Arguably CSKA Moscow performed its best defensive game in the season. Still the 79-65 win over Barcelona was one more proof of the Catalans issues. Of course there’s the excuse of missing Kostas Papanikolaou due to virus, but is it enough? Barcelona will be truly tested in the Top16, probably against Fenerbahce/ Ulker and Olympiacos and it will have a lot of hard work to do in order to gain the home court advantage for the play offs.
The come back: Olympiacos
The Reds are playing with fire almost every week, yet they are still unbeaten and not burned. This time they scored 11/11 field goals during the last period and stole the 78-73 win over Siena. Chances are that eventually they will get burned, despite being already considered one of the most clutch teams in the history of European basketball.
Last word: 46664
Everyone around the world is honoring the memory of Nelson Mandela and Euroleague games started with a minute of silence. However the competition can take pride in the fact that Mandela was honored by Euroleague when he was still living, back in the 2008-09 season, by supporting his “46664” foundation.