By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
The end of the first Top16 round is leaving us joyous and fulfilled. We got an NBA champion coming to Europe for redemption, contenders scoring 100 or more points, a Greek classic and seven more weeks of great basketball before the play offs.
In Group E the situation is clear only in the top position, which belongs to perfect Barcelona (7-0). Then there is a three way tie in second place between Panathinaikos, EA7 Milano and Olympiacos (4-3), a two way tie in the fifth place between Unicaja Malaga and Fenerbahce/ Ulker (3-4), while Anadolu Efes (2-5) and Laboral Kutxa (1-6) are already in a very difficult position.
In Group F, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid share the top (6-1), followed by Maccabi Tel Aviv (5-2) and in the fourth place there is also a three way tie between Bayern Munich, Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Kuban (3-4). Zalgiris Kaunas and Partizan (1-6) are left behind.
If you look just the numbers, 18 points and 5 rebounds can’t be so special. However, Lasme is a game changer with his defense and he did once again in the crucial clash against Olympiacos. It’s evident that the 66-62 win of the Greens has a lot to do with not letting Olympiacos score and Lasme kept the paint in check for 24 minutes, even if he had just one block.
- Sergio Llull: He is producing his best basketball of the season lately, this time with 15 points on 5/7 shots, 9 assists, 5 rebound and one steal with no turnovers in the 108-72 show against Zalgiris
- Keith Langford: When he is hot, EA7 Milano is unstoppable. That’s what happened in the 70-59 win over Unicaja. The American guard had 29 points on 10/14 shots in a dominating performance.
- Viktor Khryapa: CSKA‘s captain can do anything on the court and he just did that in the 100-65 win over injury plagued Maccabi Tel Aviv, as he flirted with a triple double having 10 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals.
- Stephan Lasme: Coach Pedoulakis has build his entire defense with him as an anchor and he was up to the task once again, so we had to go with twin towers this week.
- Ante Tomic: Laboral Kutxa didn’t have a player who could stop him. The result was an easy 80-68 road win for Barcelona as Tomic had 24 points on 8/9 shots and 9 rebounds.
Best losing performance: Bogdan Bogdanovic
Partizan’s qualification hopes are not high, but Bogdanovic is stealing the show and his own NBA draft hopes are on the rise. During the defeat by Galatasaray (78-70) the Serbian guard had 23 points on 50% shooting from the floor, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 6 turnovers in 38 minutes of action in front of a crowd from NBA scouts and general managers. Not bad at all, considering the fact that the opposing team’s defense was always focused on him.
Biggest win: Panathinaikos
In one of the biggest rivalries in Europe, the Greens once again prevailed, getting the win for the third time this season on their home court, even with a low 66-62 score. It’s not just a matter of pride. Panathinaikos now has the advantage in the three way tie for the second place of Group E standings over EA7 Milano and Olympiacos. Of course the Greens have to play those two teams on the road during the second round, starting by visiting Milan next week, but until then they can smile.
The blowout: Real Madrid
In a day that CSKA Moscow scored 100 points over Maccabi Tel Aviv, Real managed once again to score more. The Spaniards had 60 points in the first half, 90 point in 30 minutes of action and the final 108-72 was just a formality. Yes, Zalgiris is one of the weakest Top16 teams, but the quality of Real Madrid’s basketball is once again unmatched and the 151 ranking of the team is a record in Top16’s history.
The survivor: Fenerbahce/ Ulker
Fener had lost already a lot of ground, but the 71-63 road win over Anadolu Efes can be the start for a come back. The players of Zeljko Obradovic are just one win behind the three way tie at the second place and they are hosting Olympiacos next week. A win over the Reds will bring them back for good to the race for the play offs and the situation in Group E is already messy.
The come back: Bayern Munich
Lokomotiv Kuban was ready for a big step towards the play offs, but Bayern Munich found the way to defend its home court with a 82-79 win. It was a close game decided in the last quarter and despite trailing by 10 points in the half time, the Germans clawed their way back to the win and now everything seems possible for the fourth place in Group F.
The last word: Lamar the savior
He came to Europe in order to resurrect his career, but now he has also to resurrect the dying hopes of Laboral Kutxa for the play offs. With a 1-6 record, a former NBA star who wants to find again the joy to basketball has to perform miracles in order to save his team’s season in Euroleague.