Valencia Basket is in the midst of one its best starts in the Spanish Liga Endesa this 2015-16. The club notched its 11th straight victory, defeating La Bruixa d’Or Manresa 62-74, to remain undefeated. It was one of six games that closed out Round 11 of regular season action for the Spanish ACB. Justin Hamilton continued his strong play in this game, finishing with a game-high 19 points as well as seven rebounds. Valencia coach Pedro Martinez distributed playing time evenly among his men. Hamilton needed only 19 minutes on the floor to do his damage. Valencia has been successful with their pin-point ball movement all season, and their unselfish play has truly yielded laudable dividends thus far.
Not too far behind Valencia is FC Barcelona, which sits firmly in second place in the standings with their 10-1 record. They came out victors in an exhilarating game against FIATC Joventut, 83-74. Action was fast and furious in this encounter with the Youth club finding their range from downtown. FIATC bombarded Barcelona’s home court with 11-of-28 shots from deep. While their guests’ three-point shooting was on point, Barcelona stayed calm and collected. They stayed active on both the offensive and defensive glass to out-rebound FIATC Joventut 38-26. The visitors could not find an answer to Barcelona’s Ante Tomic who led three other teammates in double figures with 17 points and six rebounds. Veteran Samardo Samuels was one board shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Despite this loss, FIATC Joventut remains in the Top 8 with their 5-6 record.
Popular league club and Barcelona rival, Real Madrid also came away with a win on Sunday. They are 9-1 and are always in the mix as far as discussions about Spanish league title contenders are concerned. They took a convincing road win over Morabanc Andorra, 80-99. This was a matter of Real Madrid, doing Real Madrid things. Their up-tempo offense was on track and it made it difficult for their hosts to keep up with them shot for shot and point for point. Sergio Rodriguez asserted himself and ended the night with a game-high 20 points. Assists played big factor in the outcome of this game. Real Madrid dropped 24 dimes compared to Andorra’s 14.
Rounding out the league’s Top 4 is Laboral Kutxa Vitoria, which had little trouble in dispatching with the struggling Sevilla Basket, 89-73. Baskonia leaned on their Greek veteran Ioannis Boursis, who wreaked havoc on the Sevilla defense. He had an efficient game and finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds as well as four assists. Jaka Blazic chipped in 16 points of his own. Laboral Kutxa dictated the pace of the game and stayed sharp in retaining control. Their superior rebounding effort (34 reb) left their guests with few opportunities for second-chance points.
Round 11 was about the rich getting richer as all of the Top 5 teams garnered victories. Gran Canaria 2014 (7-3) edged out UCAM Murcia, 71-75. Gran Canaria had a balanced attack, but it was their success in converting 22-of-26 shots from the free-throw line that eventually translated into their four-point victory. UCAM Murcia made more shots from beyond the arc and even had the advantage when it came to rebounding, but in this close game it was the free-throw shooting that came through for the visitors.
CAI Zaragoza pulled out the second biggest upset of the round, downing seventh ranked Unicaja Malaga 76-72. Zaragoza led from start to finish, but needed to weather a fourth-quarter rally by Unicaja Malaga to hold on for the win. Unicaja’s reserves were having an off night and Mindaugas Kuzminskas was arguably the lone bright spot for his team. His 20 points were a game-high, but he found little support from his teammates who dipped into the three-point well once too many. Forcing the issue with their outside shooting was their undoing. CAI Zaragoza rained down 13-of-24 bombs from deep, coming out ahead in the shootout. Unicaja was slow to adapt and they went home with a notch in their loss column for their troubles. Nonetheless, this should be an eye-opening lesson for them to take into the later rounds.