BELGRADE, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Real Madrid are one victory away from reaching Euroleague basketball’s Top 16 after a 68-66 win at Lithuanians Zalgiris Kaunas extended their record to 5-1 in the preliminary group stage of the 24-team event on Friday.
Elsewhere, Galatasaray ground out a 110-103 double overtime triumph over Red Star Belgrade after the Turkish side’s Serbian forward Zoran Erceg hit an audacious three-pointer from almost the halfway line with two seconds to go of regular time.
Having slipped up at Anadolu Efes Istanbul in their last game, Real came close to suffering a second successive defeat as they blew a 24-14 first-quarter lead to fall behind soon after halftime.
The winners of a record eight Euroleague titles dug deep in the final period and turned the game around with playmaker Sergio Rodriguez netting 14 points. Guard Sergio Llull and forward Andres Nocioni added 11 each.
”Keeping our heads when Zalgiris carved out their advantage was the key and having made some crucial shots we came away with a very difficult victory,” Real coach Pablo Laso told www.euroleague.net.
Red Star came close to winning the Istanbul thriller but were undone by Erceg, the game’s top scorer with 32 points, and former NBA guard Carlos Arroyo who hit several crunch three-pointers in both overtime periods.
Galatasaray, who needed to win to keep alive realistic hopes of reaching the Top 16 that features two groups of eight teams, were staring at defeat before Erceg nailed a turnaround jump-shot from 12 metres to force the first overtime period.
The home side survived another Red Star onslaught and then produced the final twist as 35-year-old Arroyo, who played for a myriad of NBA teams including the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, sank the visitors with a barrage of long-range shots.
Forward Luka Mitrovic stood out for Red Star with a career-high 30 points, centre Boban Marjanovic amassed 23 and Nikola Kalinic scored 21 but the trio lacked good support from the backcourt players.
Spaniards Unicaja Malaga beat Croatian rivals Cedevita Zagreb 82-73 and Russians Nizhny Novgorod won 89-82 at Italian side Dinamo Sassari on the back of 29 points by American playmaker Taylor Rochestie.
Editing by Tony Jimenez