By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
The ride to the play offs will have some unexpected turns and that’s just what happened in the 9th week of the Top16. It’s a crazy situation in Group E as Barcelona is still unbeaten (9-0), EA7 Milano is second (6-3) after a big night in Piraeus, Unicaja is third (5-4) and then Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce/ Ulker are tied in the fourth place (4-5). Anadolu Efes and Laboral Kutxa follows at 2-7.
In Group F, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow are still tied at the top (8-1), Maccabi Tel Aviv is third (6-3) and then Bayern Munich and Lokomotiv Kuban share the fourth spot (4-5). Close behind them there is Galatasaray (3-6), followed by Partizan (2-7) and Zalgiris Kaunas (1-8).
He is the driving force in EA7 Milano‘s offense and as time goes by he becomes more and more lethal. The difference is his efficiency. Under a system which gives him enough room to operate, but also uses him as a part of a unit, Langford is thriving. Against Olympiacos he had 20 points, 8 assists and the three pointer which decided the outcome of the game and the 88-86 win of his team.
- Keith Langford: He is dominating Top16 as the top scorer of the league…
- Zoran Dragic: He was a one man offense for Unicaja against Anadolu Efes with 24 points, 4 steals, 3 assists and 3 rebounds in the crucial 83-75 home win.
- Krunoslav Simon: 23 points on 8/16 shots, 5 assists and finally a win of Lokomotiv Kuban over Maccabi Tel Aviv (78-76) after three defeats this season. It can’t get much better than this…
- Νikola Mirotic: Οne more big game (18 p., 7/10 FG, 5 r.) and one more win, this time with 85-74 over Galatasaray in Istanbul.
- Andres Nocioni: We had to include him, even if we are using him as a center. After all not only he had 16 points in the 68-61 win over Panathinaikos, but also 13 rebounds.
Best losing performance: Justin Dentmon
Giorgos Printezis also had a great game for Olympiacos, but Dentmon really scared CSKA Moscow. He had 28 points and got the responsibility of the last shot which could win the game. And here’s the problem. He got blocked by Aaron Jackson and CSKA got the 88-86 road win in Kaunas over Zalgiris. If Dentmon had made that shot, then Langford would have a really tough competition for the MVP spot.
Biggest win: EA7 Milano
In order to be the champ, you have to beat the champ. And Milano after a respectable but mediocre start in the season, beat twice defending champions Olympiacos, this time at least by a bucket (88-86). What that means? According to coach Banchi not so much at this point, however the Italians have the lead in the race for the second place in Group E which translates to the home court advantage in the play offs.
The upsets: Partizan, Laboral Kutxa
Ravaged by injuries with Bogdan Bogdanovic being the latest absence, the proud club from Belgrade beat Bayern Munich by 15 points (70-55). Yes, Bayern is a new comer to the basketball scene and can’t even dream yet the tradition of Partizan, but the Germans were the favorite and after being defeated by a team with just two wins, they lost a valuable ground in their race to the play offs. Same was the situation for Laboral Kutxa, which played without Lamar Odom, but managed to get the road win at OAKA over Panathinaikos (68-61), just the second positive results for the Spaniards in Top16.
The advantage: Unicaja Malaga
In the thrilling Group E race, the team of Juan Plaza did what it had to do, prevailed over Anadolu Efes (83-75) and now holds alone the third place in the standings above the trio of Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and Fenerbahce/ Ulker. Get ready for a great finish and start calculating from now the tie breaking odds.
The disappointment: Fenerbahce/ Ulker
Sometime it’s not the defeat, but they way you give up a game. And that’s what happened in Barcelona. In theory Fener had the bigger motive to fight for the upset, however Barcelona destroyed the Turkish club (83-73). Yes, Fener can still hope to squeeze its way to the play offs and in order to do that the team must totally transform in no time. That’s something that even Obradovic can’t guarantee.
Last word: Barca’s night of records
On Thursday Barcelona became the first team in Euroleague’s history that reached 300 games played in the competition. Also, it’s symbol, Juan Carlos Navarro tied Theodoros Papaloukas for the all time record of games played with 252 nights on Euroleague’s courts and also Ante Tomic got his February MVP award. Yes it was a night to remember…