It has been touch and go in the Euroleague this season for the Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, with neither club impressing often. However, despite the rocky form, both the Euroleague champions from Madrid and their Catalonia rival Barcelona made the Playoffs on Thursday.
That is the big news from day one of the final round of action in the Top 16, but the other two contests on the night also provided talking points, even if they were dead rubbers.
In Group A, Anadolu Efes Istanbul ended its continental run on a high this season with a win over already qualified Panathinaikos Athens. As Real Madrid and Barca took centre stage in Group F, Brose Baskets Bamberg went out with a bang and took out high flying Laboral Kutxa Istanbul in style.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Panathinaikos Athens, 91-86
Both these clubs already knew their Euroleague fates this season after Group E was locked for business last week. Already qualified Panathinaikos could not end the Top 16 in winning form as Anadolu Efes claimed a home win in Istanbul. The visitors started the better team, taking the first half 43-52 and holding to 61-66 through thirty minutes. However, The Greens of Athens were cut down by a resurgent Anadolu Efes is the fourth act.
Dario Saric led the win with 15 points and 7 rebounds, while Jon Diebler added 13 points and Bryant Dunston 11 points.
Elliot Williams, Nick Calathes, and James Gist all scored 14 points for Panathinaikos, with Calathes making a double-double thanks to his 10 assists.
Zalgiris Kaunas vs. Barcelona, 59-66
Barcelona clinched third place in Group F with a hard fought win over Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania. Barcelona was rocking at the long break, trailing 34-28 through halftime. The visitors woke up in the third quarter and used a 14-21 run to turn the game around and lead 48-49 after thirty minutes on the hardwood. A tight fourth frame followed but Barca held firm at the bucket and claimed the win.
Pau Ribas topped Barca with 14 points, but Joey Dorsey stood out with a double-double of 12 points and 13 boards.
Kaspars Vecvagars paced Zalgiris with 13 points.
Real Madrid vs. Khimki Moscow Region, 83-70
Reigning champions Real Madrid went big at home to make the Euroleague Playoffs at the expense of Russian club Khimki Moscow Region. Los Blancos is still not cooking this season, but somehow the champs find themselves in the knock-out phase. As for Khimki, the Russian club must be ruing a missed opportunity after starting the Top 16 stage so well. In this contest, the hosts stayed one step ahead for long periods and pulled away in the fourth quarter to punch its ticket.
Jaycee Carroll stepped up for Madrid with a high 23 points, while Felipe Reyes added 18 points. Sergio Rodriguez doubled up with 10 points and 10 assists.
Tyrese Rice topped the scoring on the night with 24 points for Khimki, while Petteri Koponen added 13 points.