Both Caja Laboral and CSKA Moscow came into Euroleague Top 16 Week 3 with impressive Euroleague win streaks. Caja’s last defeat in Euroleague competition was on Nov. 23, 2012, when they were handed a serious beat-down at the hands of Zalgiris Kaunas (82:45). That match-up was seven games ago, since then they’ve been on a roll, winning six Euroleague games and eight straight in their home league, Spain’s Liga Endesa. CSKA Moscow has had similar good fortune, currently riding an eight-game winning streak in the Euroleague that dates back to Nov. 8, 2013 when they lost to Barcelona Regal at home, 60:81. They also are 8-1 in the Russian PBL and 9-1 in the VTB United League. On Thursday, both Caja and CSKA improved to 3-0 in the Top 16 with wins over Besiktas (77:51) and Brose Baskets (90:83), respectively.
In the other two match-ups on Thursday, Panathinaikos moved to 2-1 with a win over Unicaja Malaga (78:73) and Maccabi Tel Aviv finally got their first Top 16 win with a convincing victory over a struggling Fenerbahce Ulker (91:73). The loss was Ulker’s second 18-point defeat this week, having lost 94:76 to Anadolu Efes in a Turkish TBL contest on Monday.
All four home clubs picked up wins on Thursday.
CSKA Moscow – Brose Baskets Bamberg, 90:83
CSKA Moscow moved to 3-0, while Brose Baskets fell to 0-3 as result of the Russia club’s 90:83 win in Moscow Thursday night.
The two clubs came out swinging, tossing up a barrage of long-range missiles, connecting on an impressive nine three-balls during the quarter between them. When the dust had settled on the attack, Brose held a slim 22:24 advantage.
There was no let up to the rapid fire shooting attack on both sides of the court, with Bamberg building a 38:44 lead after hitting a pair of treys and getting a much needed defensive stop. CSKA countered with seven unanswered of their own, two baskets coming from beyond the stripe, to close out the half having reeled the visitors back in, 45:46.
The hosts put a small run together to open the second half, but then Bamberg cut them off for nearly four minutes while running off eight. Multiple lead changes and knotted scores later, CSKA’s Theo Papaloukas canned a triple to give the locals a three-point advantage heading into the final 10.
The final frame opened with CSKA extending their lead with a quick deuce, but Brose countered with a three-ball. The home club got tough on the boards, taking advantage of openings to pick up easy put backs on the offensive side to start spreading the gap. Just when the Russian squad, and their estimate crowd of just under 5,000, could start to feel a bit more comfortable with the scoreboard situation, their guests chipped off five from their deficit to be only down by two, 78:76, late in the quarter. CSKA kept the pressure on defense and kept hitting their shots, opening a small lead that were able to run out to the end, earning the hard-fought, 90:83, win.
Viktor Khryapa tossed his name into that hat for the Week 4 MVP race with an outstanding performance that included 19 points, 14 rebounds and four steals, amassing a PIR of 32 on the night. Milow Teodosic and Dionte Christmas dropped in 17 points in the win. Teodosic added to his league-high assist totals with nine.
Bostjan Nachbar put his Brose brothers on his shoulders and tried as best he could to carry them to a win Thursday, but his 35 points just weren’t quite enough to get the club over the hump. He also earned a PIR of 36, but being from a losing team disqualifies him from MVP contention. Sergerio Gipson and Maik Zirbes added 12 points, with Zirbes also grabbing seven rebounds.
Panathinaikos Athens – Unicaja Malaga, 78:73
Unicaja Malaga hit the road to take on Panathinaikos Athens in front of 11,000 at the O.A.K.A, coming up on the short end of a 78:73 score. The win improves the Greens to 2-1, while Unicaja falls to 1-2 early in the Euroleague Top 16 season.
The hosts built a small advantage, 23:19, after the first quarter, but Unicaja cut it in half heading in to the intermission, 39:37.
It didn’t take the visitors long to knot the score when they took to floor for the second half as a couple of jumpers pulled the score to 42. The hosts pulled away a bit with a 9:4 mini-run, only to have that covered by some long-range accuracy to give the Spanish club a two-point lead, 56:58, with just 10 to play.
With the score tied at 62, the Greens ran off nine unanswered with Unicaja not able to get the ball through the cords for just over four minutes. With a 73:64 margin with two minutes left, the hosts might have gotten a bit comfortable, but their guests were far from giving up and they ran off seven to bring the score to 73-71 with just under 30 clicks left. Panathinaikos hit five of six from the stripe to close out scoring 78-73.
Newly acquired James Gist paced the way with 17 points, while Jona Maciulis and Marcus Banks hit 14 each for the hosts.
Earl Calloway added 14 for Unicaja, while Krunoslav Simon, Andy Panko, and Luka Zoric added 11 points each to the loss.
Caja Laboral – Besiktas JK Istanbul, 77:51
In the game that was billed by the Euroleague as their “Game of the Week”, Caja Laboral dominated their guests in every way, start to finish, to move to 3-0 in Euroleague Top 16 play. The loss drops Besiktas to 0-3.
The hosts set the tone early, turning loose a 25:2 run to start the contest, including scoring the first 21 points of the game, a margin that Besiktas had no chance of making up. At the end of the first quarter Besiktas found themselves in a 27:7 hole.
The second quarter was better in that the visitors put some points on the board, but they also allowed Caja to still outscore them by one to head into the break down 45:24.
Caja kept the pressure on in the second half with their advantage swelling to 26 in the third quarter and peaked at 33 in the final quarter before Besiktas was able to chip six off the gap before the final horn sounded at 77:51.
Maciej Lampe led the way for Caja with 12 points and 10 rebounds, accumulating a PIR of 23. Brad Oleson added 13 points, while Milko Bjelica and Tibor Pleiss contributed 12 points each.
Besiktas JK got 12 from Daniel Ewing (six rebounds) and 10 from Curtis Jerrells.
Maccabi Tel Aviv – Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, 91:73
Maccabi Tel Aviv finally got their first ‘W’ of the Top 16 with a solid 91:73 win over Fenerbahce in Tel Aviv.
The two clubs headed into the dressing room at the half with the scoreboard showing a score knotted at 36.
Maccabi pulled away early in the third, but Ulker countered the move and got back to within one. The hosts ran off nine unanswered to get up 53:44, with Ulker dropping in two deuces before the quarter was up to cut the margin to five.
The hosts took control of the fourth and found a couple of hot shooting hands in Ricky Hickman, Shawn James and Moran Roth, to put up 38 points in the final 10 and run away with the contest.
Hickman led the home club with 24 points (a career high), five rebounds and five assists and a PIR of 34, besting CSKA’s Viktor Khryapa’s 32 for the best of the day. James also had a career high of 22 points and turned in a PIR of 31.
Fenerbahce got 15 points from Bo McCalebb, Romain Sato (eight rebounds), and Bojan Bogdanovic, while Mike Baptiste added 10 points and nine rebounds.
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This year’s final4 can be the strangest one.