|1||LAST WEEK: Won 87-73 at Zalgiris
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Unicaja Malaga
They had opened up the Top 16 against arguably Group E’s weakest trio–Efes, Berlin and Bamberg–but going into Kaunas, Lithuania and leaving with a 14-point win is a Hell of a way to show everyone you mean business. Milos Teodosic went for a career-high 24 points and Khryapa extended his impersonation of Kirilenko’s 2012 MVP push with a line of 15 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks.
Real Madrid(4-0; 11-3)
|LAST WEEK: Won 72-64 at Unicaja
THIS WEEK: Friday at Panathinaikos
Madrid’s best bet at a competitive game at this point might be a Purple vs. White scrimmage. All 12 Madrileños sweat for their paycheck against Unicaja as Madrid out-boarded their fellow Spaniards 44-28, easily covering up their weakest scoring output since a half-hearted and Rudy-less affair against Cantú in week nine.
|LAST WEEK: Won 88-67 vs. Maccabi
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Fenerbahce
Well, you can’t say Khimki’s guys don’t play for the love of the game. Reports out of the Russian capital tell tales of three months without paychecks and the imminent threat of a player strike, yet once a week I flip on my Euroleague.TV to find Khimki briskly whipping it around the perimeter and dumping daggers inside to Paul Davis or Kresimir Loncar. This week, they shook off a 19-25 deficit after the first quarter and ran Maccabi out of their building in the second, 27-9. Still undefeated at home. Still waiting on those rubles.
|4||Caja Laboral(4-0; 8-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 97-75 at Fenerbahce Ulker
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Barcelona
Baskonia’s turnaround came quicker than a hiccup, and they’ve showed no signs of reverting to their losing ways. Now that he’s healthy, Maciej Lampe finally looks like the top two-to-three post talent that Europe knows he can be, and Tibor Pleiss (OKC Thunder, one day, maybe) has shaken off early season mononucleosis and broken out of his tissue-soft protective shell to provide a sensational rebounding rate: 7.5 per game in just 16 minutes.
|LAST WEEK: Won 73-59 at Besiktas
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Caja Laboral
Last season, many around Europe–even scouts, agents with whom I spoke–wondered what C.J. Wallace was doing to earn his red-and-blue Barca stripes. This season, he’s picked his shooting numbers up from the mid-30s to the upper-40s and only built upon the hustle points that he earned from coach Xavi Pascual last season. He’s averaging 1.8 steals per game at the four spot in the Top 16, and has had more of an impact than All-Euroleaguer Erazem Lorbek, who was close to signing with the Spurs this offseason.
|6||Montepaschi Siena (4-0; 9-5)||LAST WEEK: Won 74-72 at Olympiacos
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Besiktas
How are we going to shoot down Siena this week? Bobby Brown can’t do it all himself? He’s proven that he can, plus his supporting cast is better than advertised. They don’t play defense? They do when it matters, and it ‘matters’ less frequently when you’re putting up 86.6 ppg, five more than everyone’s clear-cut offensive favorite, Real Madrid. They didn’t really win in Piraeus? Please. They decided to puff out their chests and back Olympiacos into a sad, dark corner in that last minute. This team is far from complete, but Lord help whichever set of poor souls has to plan against these guys in a five-game playoff should they make it that far.
|7||Panathinaikos(3-1; 9-5)||LAST WEEK: Won 79-73 at Alba Berlin
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Real Madrid
Three wins in games Dimitris Diamantidis has missed entirely or partially due to injury. One loss in which he participated fully. Am I saying they’re better off without him? I’d have myself committed if that thought ever crossed my mind in earnest. But it’s nice to know that Marcus Banks and Roko Ukic can handle the ball when their leader is sidelined.
|8||Zalgiris(1-3; 9-5)||LAST WEEK: Lost 87-73 vs. CSKA Moscow
THIS WEEK: Friday at Anadolu Efes
Uh-oh. Three losses in the first four. This might be those old legs failing, fianally. It might also be a result of a profoundly tilted schedule, which has taken them to Athens, Madrid and opened the door to Numero Uno, CSKA. Efes is up next, with the two Germans waiting behind them. Wins in all three is a distinct possibility.
|9||Olympiacos (1-3; 9-5)||LAST WEEK: Lost 74-72 vs. Montepaschi Siena
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Maccabi
While protests rain down from Piraeus due to either the ineptitude of their own clock operator and/or malfunctioning electronics in the loss to Siena, the real blame lies with the Reds’ inability to close out a game that should have been theirs.
|10||Anadolu Efes (3-1; 8-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 94-76 at Bamberg
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Zalgiris
As much as I’d love to ignore Anadolu Efes (they’ve burned me once, twice, thrice before) getting their third win by 18 points on the road at Bamberg’s Freak City, I cannot. Not when they get seven guys in double figures and shoot 60 percent from two, 40 from deep and make 17-of-18 from the stripe. Plus, the defensive work Jamon Gordon is doing out front is worthy of an All-Defensive First Team nod. If that existed.
|11||Unicaja(1-3; 9-5)||LAST WEEK: Lost 72-64 vs. Real Madrid
THIS WEEK: Friday at CSKA Moscow
Through 14 games, Unicaja has only won two games against teams with overall winning records: Siena in week three, and Maccabi back in week six. This ain’t Group B anymore, fellas. After making the ACB’s Ideal Quintet last year with Lagun Aro, Sergi Vidal missed the start of this season and hasn’t been the same player since his return, shooting a miserable 5-of-19 in the Top 16. A calming presence like his on the perimeter would be just what the impulsive duo of Krunoslav Simon and Txemi Urtasun needs.
|12||Maccabi Tel Aviv
|LAST WEEK: Lost 88-67 at Khimki
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Olympiacos
Can Ricky Hickman lead Maccabi Tel Aviv’s turnaround? The EL rookie is certainly doing his damnedest. He’s attacking as much as anyone in the league right now, drawing 7.3 fouls per game in the Top 16 while only turning it over once per game, which is pretty remarkable given his high usage. If only David Logan (5 ppg in the Top 16 vs. 11.1 in the regular season) could pretend that he were wearing Prokom’s yellow and start hitting some shots.
|13||Bamberg(0-4; 3-11)||LAST WEEK: Lost 94-76 vs. Anadolu Efes
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Alba Berlin
Only Bobby Brown’s 24.8 ppg tops Bostjan Nachbar’s 20.8 during the Top 16, but Bob’s got four wins while Boki’s got four losses. The Germans will come up against their best chance yet for a W this week in their nation’s capital against a team they hardly need to scout. When Bamberg and Berlin met in mid-December in the BBL, Alba took it 90-75. I think things end differently this Thursday.
|LAST WEEK: Lost 73-59 vs. Barcelona
THIS WEEK: Friday at Montepaschi Siena
Curtis Jerrells seems to be getting better at being Curtis Jerrells, scoring 13 per game and putting up better percentages across the board in the Top 16, but Patrick Christopher continues to be maybe the least reliable wing scorer left in the league and there’s nobody on the roster to take his touches.
|15||Alba Berlin(0-4; 4-10)||LAST WEEK: Lost 79-73 vs. Panathinaikos
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Bamberg
Like Bamberg, Berlin’s looking at this week’s schedule and thinking W, but they’ll need Albert Miralles and Yassin Idbihi to combine for more than the four points and five rebounds they collected in 43 minutes against Panathinaikos. Deon Thompson’s giving them what they need at power forward, but he needs help down there. And which Nihad Djedovic will show up this week: the one who was held scoreless in week 13, or the one who dropped 21 a week later?
|16||Fenerbahçe Ülker(0-4; 5-9)||LAST WEEK: Lost 97-75 vs. Caja Laboral
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Khimki
One hundred. Ninety-eight. Ninety-one. Ninety-seven. With Bo McCalebb, Bojan Bogdanovic, Emir Preldzic, Mike Batiste, David Andersen and scorers galore, this team was supposed to be posting those fat numbers, not giving them up. Crazy to think that head coach Simone Pianigiani is the same guy who orchestrated some of the EL’s most fundamentally sound defenses for years in Siena.
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