BELGRADE (Reuters) - Russian clubs enjoyed a perfect week in Euroleague as Moscow rivals Khimki and CSKA as well as Lokomotiv Krasnodar all won to move closer to the competition’s knockout stages.
Khimki beat Barcelona 75-61 at home and Lokomotiv defeated Anadolu Efes Istanbul 76-61 away on Thursday, after six-time winners CSKA celebrated an impressive 96-87 victory at holders Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Khimki were tied with Barcelona in Group F before the game with both sides having won four and lost four of their eight matches.
The Russians, however, blew away the twice former winners after taking a 19-point halftime lead and gained the upper hand in a tight race to reach the last eight.
Barcelona fought hard to get back into the match after the break but Khimki’s ironclad defense restricted the Catalan side to only 20 field goals from 61 attempts.
“It was one of our best defensive performances of the season, we played tough from the first to the last minute,” Khimki coach Rimas Kurtinaitis told www.euroleague.net.
Barcelona, winners in 2003 and 2010, now face an uphill battle to avoid an early exit in a fiercely competitive group after another lackluster performance.
Six-times winners CSKA stayed top of Group F, improving to 7-2 after five of their players scored in double figures, led by power forward Kyle Hines, who amassed 16 points.
“We got another victory in such a tough Top 16 group,” said CSKA’s Greek coach Dimitris Itoudis.
“As I told my players, this was another day at work for us. We did good things during the game and proved that this CSKA team can score regardless what we play offensively.”
The Top 16 features two pools of eight, with the top four from each section advancing to the best-of-five quarter-final playoff series.
The winners will then qualify for the May 13-15 Final Four in Berlin.
In Group E, Lokomotiv took a big step towards the playoffs after guard Malcolm Delaney sank 19 points and fellow American center Anthony Randolph added 17 against Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
They are second in the pool with a 7-2 record, behind Fenerbahce Istanbul, who have seven wins and one defeat ahead of their home game against Red Star Belgrade on Friday.
Panathinaikos Athens, who have six titles, boosted their hopes of progressing with a 76-58 win at Unicaja Malaga.
Editing by Toby Davis