Round 1 of the Top 16 was a little crowded, we’ll get to that, but by and large it was awfully relaxing basketball.

We open with the game that closed the openung round if action. Vassilis Spanoulis went nuts in the SEF as he ripped Zedijko Obradovic a new one on the coach’s first trip to the arena as Fenerbahce coach. Obradovic brought his troops to the OAKA for warm-ups earlier in the day, a nice touch we must admit, but he couldn’t get them to fix an issue that’s hit them a few times this season. Could somebody please tell Fener to show up in the first quarter? Credit to the Istanbul club, they clawed their way back into it and made it a one-possession game going into the final minutes but then V-Span went out of this world again and the home side took the W. In a shock to no-one, Spanoulis was named MVP of the round with 28 points, 9 assists, and PIR of 39. Whatever the result when Barcelona visits Istanbul next week, a far better first frame is necessary for all of us reformed doubters to keep the faith. One final note on this game, be sure to check out Raul Jimenez’s piece on mismatches inspired by this game.

Staying in Group E and there was a good spot by Rob Scott over at ELA. The difference in offensive performance by Panathinaikos with and without Dimitris Diamantidis is frightening. They took care of business on Thursday night 73-57 at home against EA7 Milan, helped by 11 dimes from DDD. Daniel Hackett may be happy to still be in Italy but he must be guessing that his European season is going to become frighteningly irrelevant soon.

Barcelona dominated Efes 84-65, aided by a Joey Dorsey double-double (10 points, 11 boards) and 3 blocks from Ante Tomic. This gives the Blaugrana the nominal top spot of Group E in what is the foetal stage of the group. Finally in Group E, Saski Baskonia/Laboral Kutxa/Remember when they were called TAU scored an important road win over Unicaja Malaga 93-79. If the Basque club is going to break the top four in this group, it needs to ace its tests against the rest of Group E.

Before we jump over to Group F, let’s check the time. Friday was pretty cool. Three games, three different start times, including one that was at lunch for those of us in GMT land. What the heck was going on with all the games clashing on Thursday? LiveBasketball.TV’s connection issues are headache inducing enough without the league office compounding matters with identical start times. Staggering the games would have made so much more sense, 15 minutes between each tip preferably, so that those of us watching online can flow through the narrative as the evening progresses…or in my case curse missing games because my girlfriend was sick. Whatever floats your boat really.

Real won in spite of themselves in Belgrade, Maccabi started their road to 10-4 with a win, so let’s get to the Friday games which actually mattered. Krasnodar at lunchtime, well lunchtime for me, was a strange one. a whole bunch of offence early before both teams cooled off. CSKA eventually recorded the road W which will mean a lot less to them than the home L will to Kuban who won’t have much wriggle room in the battle for the final playoff spot.

Those issues were further compounded by FC Bayern winning at Kaunas. The Germans have a better team than Zalgiris but this was still the type of match-up they could have easily lost, especially after this site gave them the kiss of death. Bayern’s home game with Partizan next week is another of the must-win variety, sorry kids but if you’re going to pull a big shock you’ll have to win a good few must-win games. Incidentally, Bayern and Kuban meet in rounds 7 and 14.

Next week’s must-watch is Thursday’s meeting of Fenerbahce and Barcelona in Istanbul, followed closely by Friday’s clash between Baskonia and Panathinaikos in Vitoria on Friday. Actually screw that, we’re flipping and saying the game between Saski and the Greens is a bigger deal. Group F’s pickings are slim. We’ll go with Maccabi vs Loko and if that goes south, switch to Bayern vs Partizan.

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