|1||LAST WEEK: Lost 74-72 at Anadolu Efes|
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Alba Berlin
Real Madrid is still the best team playing basketball in Europe right now despite their first loss and CSKA’s battering ram of a win. But it might be time for Pablo Laso to trust Dontaye Draper more than he has in the Top 16 (16 total minutes the last two weeks) if he wants to avoid allowing 46 points in a half like they did against Efes last week. He annoys opposing guards like nobody else in a Madrid jersey and does a terrific job doubling down and scraping the Hell out of the other team’s post players when it’s dumped inside.
|LAST WEEK: Won 88-69 vs. Panathinaikos|
THIS WEEK: Friday at Anadolu Efes
That monstrous third quarter against Real Madrid must have woken Sasha Kaun up, because he was absolutely dominant with his PIR of 30 this week against Panathinaikos. And when Milos Teodosic and Sonny Weems combine for 39 points on 15-of-27 shooting, I’m even willing to overlook the 10 turnovers.
|LAST WEEK: Won 82-77 at Maccabi|
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Fenerbahce Ulker
As everyone clamors over CSKA Moscow and Madrid, there’s a team lurking around the corner who has beaten them both and has a better record (Barca beat Real Madrid in ACB play, but still…). And with vets like Juan Carlos Navarro, Erazem Lorbek and the Pascual-shackled Marcelinho Huertas having unspectacular seasons, Barcelona’s success can be largely credited to Ante Tomic, who, as Sam Meyerkopf of Euroleague Adventures describes, has finally become the player we all hoped he’d be after rising, falling, and ultimately latching onto his game after a rocky last few seasons in Europe.
|4||Montepaschi Siena(6-1; 11-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 85-74 vs. Caja Laboral|
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Maccabi
Despite getting abused by Nemanja Bjelica at the rim twice in a matter of minutes — one a brutal one-handed hammer, the other a craftily floated runner that took direct advantage of the shellshocked center — Benjamin Eze has seriously stepped up since Tomas Ress went down with injury. Ress is back now, and fills an entirely different role than Eze (Ress is pick, pop, shoot/pass rather than Benjamin’s stay-at-home, then stay-at-home some more), but Eze gives Siena a much tougher look defensively and actually sucks guys in to leave space for Siena’s relentlessly refilling quiver of shooters on the outside. In Eze’s first four Top 16 games, he averaged 1.5 points, 2.5 board and .25 blocks. Since? Ten, 4.3 and 1.3.
|5||Olympiacos(4-3; 12-5)||LAST WEEK: Won 87-82 at Khimki Moscow|
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Caja Laboral
Handing Khimki their first home loss of the season and then replacing Evangelos Mantzaris (out for the year, ACL) with one of the world’s — and I mean world’s — toughest guards, Doron Perkins, all in a week’s work? Hell of a stretch. Let’s just hope Perkins doesn’t pack any newly-acquired bad habits with him on his way out of the Chinese Basketball Association.
|6||Anadolu Efes(6-1; 11-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 74-72 vs. Real Madrid|
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. CSKA Moscow
I wrestled with this spot longer than any on the board. I think Khimki Moscow is the better team and will have better success the rest of the way. When I say ‘better success,’ I’m talking about a Final Four shot (as long as they can avoid CSKA and Madrid in the Playoffs, which right now would be the case thanks to Anadolu Efes sneaking into second place in Group E). But Efes has not disappointed us yet in six tries since losing to CSKA in the Top 16′s opening week, and Jamon Gordon is making serious moves toward an All-Euroleague bid after an effective Regular Season that was still somehow not enough. Now, he’s taking almost as many away (2.6 steals) as he’s handing out (4.4 assists) and the rim protectors are doing just barely enough behind him.
|7||Khimki Moscow(4-3; 10-7)||LAST WEEK: Lost 87-82 vs. Olympiacos|
THIS WEEK: Friday vs. Besiktas
Zoran Planinic set a Euroleague Top 16 record for single-game assists with 13 last week. The record was 12, and had been held by Omar Cook (OC did it twice), Theo Papaloukas and Vrbica Stefanov. Planinic playing well has become routine; losing at home is anything but.
|8||Caja Laboral(4-3; 8-9)||LAST WEEK: Lost 84-75 at Montepaschi Siena|
THIS WEEK: Friday at Olympiacos
Brad Oleson hit 9-of-15 from three in the Top 16 before he was cut for financial reasons and then greedily scooped up by Barcelona just to watch the rest of the Euroleague season unfold from a folding chair. Oleson left after Caja Laboral suffered their first Top 16 loss and they’ve lost consecutive games since, in which they’ve shot 11-of-37 from deep. Even more concerning is the sudden lapse in defensive awareness; in their first four Top 16 games (all wins), Zan Tabak’s rejuvenated defense allowed opponents to score only 67.5 PPG. That number has catapulted to 86 PPG in their three losses. We were high on them when they were soaring, and we should be equally worried now that they’ve slipped and fallen, repeatedly.
|9||Zalgiris(3-4; 11-6)||LAST WEEK: Won 88-87 at Bamberg|
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Panathinaikos
Zalgiris was bailed out at the buzzer when Marko Popovic stepped to the line and nailed three free throws with 0:00 left in overtime to beat the winless Bamberg by one. But just after rescuing that good news from imminent dissolution, they received word that their leader in minutes played and rebounds, Paulius Jankunas, would miss the rest of the year with shoulder surgery after an injury he suffered in that very same overtime. Zalgiris is back on track in the wins column, but after losing their most dynamic guard (Ibby Jaaber) and most important post presence in a matter of weeks, it’s hard to feel optimistic about Kaunas’ sweethearts.
|10||Panathinaikos(4-3; 10-7)||LAST WEEK: Lost 88-69 at CSKA Moscow|
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Zalgiris
Even at their best, Panathinaikos is simply not agile enough as a defensive unit to stick with CSKA Moscow or the Euroleague’s athletically-elite, provided that said opposition actually has half a clue what they’re doing with the ball. CSKA had a clue and quickly solved the puzzle, moving the ball rapidly—both by pass and dribble drive—and punching holes in the Greens’ protective membrane over and over. Diamantidis is not the on-ball defensive force he once was (not even close), and neither Banks, Ukic, nor Kapono are of much assistance. Even Michael Bramos, considered a good perimeter defender, is not without his flaws and a noticeable lack of lateral speed. Antonis Fotsis might be coming home to try and make this right, but even he is better suited, and far more willing, to hang around and shoot corner jumpers than he is to lock down a Tremmel Darden or even a Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who they’ll see this week in Lithuania.
|LAST WEEK: Won 67-65 at Berlin|
THIS WEEK: Thursday at Bamberg
The road game in Berlin is exactly the sort of trap game that Unicaja would’ve lazed away in the past. But because it took this Marcus Williams three with 0.6 seconds left to get out alive, I have no choice but to be less in awe of Malaga’s gallant avoidance of embarrassing failure.
|12||Fenerbahce Ulker(2-5; 7-10)||LAST WEEK: Won 78-72 vs. Besiktas|
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Barcelona
This time around, I’m not even tempted to dream big on Fenerbahce, even after a win. For one, it was against Besiktas, and despite the venom that oozes from that derby, they damn well should have beaten them, and frankly it’s a wonder Fenerbahce even let the EL’s worst offense reach 72 points. Secondly, the images they’ve forced us all to stomach and store away this year are all characterized by a lack of organization, effort, and direction on both ends of the floor. Bojan Bogdanovic is scoring at his highest pace since being Mr. Usage with Cibona and Bo McCalebb looks to be playing on two semi-stable ankles. Those are good things. The record, however, as well as their hopes for advancing, are both looking just as bad as before.
|13||Maccabi Tel Aviv (2-5; 10-7)||LAST WEEK: Lost 82-77 vs. Barcelona|
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Montepaschi Siena
Whether things are going well or horribly (right now they’re somewhere in between, but much closer to the southern borders), Maccabi fans expect the guys in yellow to win after warm-ups are done in Nokia Arena. And if the guys in yellow only turn it over five times, they expect to cruise. But none of that matters when you let Barcelona shoot 61 percent from two and they hit 8-of-17 from three. Maccabi needs more girth down low. Period. With the deadline for acquisitions having passed, it may be too late to salvage this season.
|14||Alba Berlin (1-6; 5-12)||LAST WEEK: Lost 67-65 vs. Unicaja|
THIS WEEK: Friday at Real Madrid
Berlin adds French big Ali Traore to the mix, giving them exactly the sort of scoring center they need to compete. But competition will have to wait a week, since they travel to Madrid this Friday for what will probably get very ugly, very quickly.
|15||Bamberg(0-7; 3-14)||LAST WEEK: Lost 88-87 vs. Zalgiris|
THIS WEEK: Thursday vs. Unicaja
After fouling Marko Popovic on an awkward-looking desperation three with time expiring and Bamberg up two in overtime, Anton Gavel probably felt awful. So awful, in fact, that he might not be able to enjoy his new playmate on the perimeter, Matt Walsh. Walsh is the curly-cue-headed ex-Gator who has been averaging 17.6 points, 6 boards and even 4.6 assists in the Eurocup for Spirou Charleroi. Add Jeremiah Massey to the mix — who’s eligible to participate this week for Brose Baskets — and suddenly this roster looks like they could knock some playoff-bound teams off track. But winless through the Top 16′s first half, Bamberg will merely hope to play the spoiler in the EL, and finish the year with Germany’s BBL trophy in their hands.
|16||Besiktas(0-7; 5-12)||LAST WEEK: Lost 78-72 at Fenerbahce Ulker|
THIS WEEK: Friday at Khimki Moscow
Even when you’ve lost them all coming in, losing to your rival from across the
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