Every game is massive now as the Euroleague Top 16 tipped off with round one action, ushered in by three contests on Tuesday. There will be a further six games on Wednesday in what is the only Top 16 round to be played in 2015, the rest of the Euroleague will now be competed in the New Year.
As mentioned, every game is massive from this point out as every contest pits two of the continent’s biggest clubs against each other, simply put, there are no easy games in the Top 16. CSKA Moscow found that out on Tuesday as they were undone by Khimki in an all-Russian game. The runaway VTB United League leaders were among the form teams in the Regular Season, but Khimki is CSKA’s closest rival domestically and brought the fight to the Army Men in Europe.
Barcelona were also undone in a Euroleague classic tie, losing to Greek juggernaut Olympiacos in a replay of a fixture that will be very familiar to longtime fans of Europe’s elite club competition. Spanish outfit Unicaja Malaga continued its consistent form this season with a victory over Darussafaka Istanbul, the Turkish team arriving in the Top 16 as one of this season’s surprise packages.
It is in Malaga where we will start.
Unicaja Malaga vs. Darussafaka Istanbul, 70-62
Unicaja Malaga tamed Darussafaka in the second half of this contest on home turf, weathering a winning first half from the Turkish club that saw them lead 29-32 through the long break. In the third act Malaga improved during the third act and carved narrow 54-53 lead through thirty minutes on the hardwood. In the deciding fourth quarter the hosts stopped Darussafaka at 9 points on the way to victory.
Edwin Jackson logged 20 points in the Malaga win, followed by Mindaugas Kuzminskas with 15 points and Richard Hendrix with 13 points.
Semih Erden was the only player in double digits from the losing effort, he offered 15 points.
Khimki Moscow Region vs. CSKA Moscow, 91-89
In an all-Russian clash between CSKA Moscow, the VTB champions, and Khimki, last season’s VTB runner up, it was Khimki that came out on top. CSKA may have the Euroleague pedigree, but Khimki has proved a potent rival to the Army Men of Moscow in recent years. This close contest was decided in the second half as the hosts roared back from a losing ten point deficit (41-51) at halftime. Khimki rallied during the third and fourth quarters before Alexey Shved decided the game with 1.1 seconds to go.
Shved finished with 28 points in a strong offensive effort in the second half, while Tyrese Rice plundered 25 points, both players also dishing 5 assists apiece.
Nando De Colo stood out for the CSKA with 20 points and 6 scoring passes. Milos Teodosic logged 18 points and Cory Higgins was good for 16 points.
Olympiacos Piraeus vs. Barcelona, 74-62
A classic Euroleague fixture, Olympiacos downed its old rival in a surprisingly cruising home win for the Greeks at the start of the Top 16. After locking the first frame 14-14, the hosts managed to pull ahead with a 25-12 run in the second act that made it 39-26 through the midway rest. Olympiacos stayed a step ahead for the remainder, winning the third stanza 17-14, before easing down the straight despite losing the fourth period.
Vassilis Spanoulis topped a well-rounded Olympiacos offence with 11 points and 9 assists, while Othello Hunter added 10 points.
Ante Tomic led Barca with 16 points, followed by Tomas Satoransky with 12 points.