Basketball: Quadruple joy for perfect Spaniards
By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Four wins out of four by Spanish clubs in the opening round of the Euroleague's marathon second group stage came as icing on the Christmas cake for the country's basketball fans.
CSKA Moscow, six-time winners of Europe's premier club competition, impressed with a 90-71 home rout of Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Friday and their less heralded neighbors Khimki, based on the outskirts of Russia's capital, sprung an 80-75 upset at Besiktas Istanbul.
Panathinaikos Athens edged Lithuanians Zalgiris Kaunas 67-66 in a battle of former champions while Italians Montepaschi Siena produced an effervescent performance in a 79-69 home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, the winners of four Euroleague titles.
Caja Laboral Vitoria were staring at an early exit after losing six of their opening seven games in the preliminary group stage of the fiercely competitive 24-team competition earlier in the season, two of them to holders Olympiakos Piraeus.
But in their opening match of the top-16 stage, featuring two pools of eight teams playing each other home and away on a round-robin basis, the Spaniards got sweet revenge with an 82-74 victory against the defending champions after overcoming an 11-point first-half deficit.
Polish centre Maciej Lampe engineered Caja's fourth win on the trot with a career-high 25 points and American shooting guard Brad Oleson added 15 as the Basque outfit powered ahead after winning the third quarter 27-11 in the cauldron of their Fernando Buesa Arena.
"Caja is a completely different team from the one in the regular season as they now have the confidence and the chemistry while our defense was not what it was supposed to be," Olympiakos coach Georgios Bartzokas told the competition's official website (www.euroleague.net).
His counterpart Zan Tabak said: "It has been very difficult to make the players believe they can win after they lost twice to Olympiakos already but we prepared mentally very well for this game." Continued...