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Brown shines as Euroleague favorites stutter

By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A blistering individual performance by Euroleague's top scorer Bobby Brown gave Montepaschi Siena a 98-92 win at Fenerbahce Istanbul on Friday while several big guns were rocked by surprise defeats in the second round of the top 16.

Khimki Moscow stunned 2010 champions Barcelona 78-65, six-time winners Panathinaikos Athens went down 78-64 at Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Maccabi Tel Aviv, the winners of four titles, were edged 71-70 at home by a rejuvenated Caja Laboral Vitoria.

Holders Olympiakos Piraeus strolled to a 77-64 home success against Besiktas Istanbul to register their first win in the second group stage of the competition, featuring two pools of eight teams, as former champions CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and Zalgiris Kaunas also enjoyed easy wins.

The 28-year old Brown, a journeyman who plied his trade at several NBA teams as well as little known sides such as Germany's Oldenburg, equalled Euroleague's record of 41 points as Siena overcame an 11-point third quarter deficit in the cauldron of Fenerbahce's Ulker Sports Arena.

Brown, who has averaged 19.2 points per game, nailed 12 of his 18 shots from the field and all 13 from the foul line while he also dished out seven assists, overshadowing Croatian forward Bojan Bogdanovic who led the home side with 31 points.

"It was a special night for me and my team mates and I was happy to help the team win," Brown told the competition's official website (www.euroleague.net).

"We played very well at a crunch time and stayed calm in the end to get a very important road win, but this is just the beginning and we still have plenty of games which we need to play the same way."

Fenerbahce's Italian coach Simone Pianigiani, who led Siena to six successive domestic league titles before he took over at the Turkish club this season, said: "Tonight we played one of the best games of the season but lost it in the critical last moments over small details.

"Bobby Brown had an incredible night, we did everything to stop him but we failed."

Barcelona sorely missed injured guard Juan Carlos Navarro on the outskirts of Russia's capital, where Khimki have proved to be tough customers even for more heralded rivals.

They blew away the Spanish side on the back of 16 points by Croatia guard Zoran Planinic.

Panathinaikos also felt the absence of inspirational playmaker Dimitris Diamantidis, who helped them to three titles in Europe's premier club competition, with former Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Farmar leading the way for Efes with 13 points.

CAJA COMEBACK

Caja Laboral were heading for an early exit after losing six of their opening seven games in the preliminary group stage and having squeezed through with three wins in a row, they continued their impressive comeback with a second successive victory in the top 16.

Spain forward Fernando San Emeterio settled a rip-roaring contest in Maccabi's jam-packed Nokia Arena with an audacious lay-up with eight seconds left on the clock after the home side had overturned a 12-point halftime deficit.

Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica was Caja's top scorer with 17 points and American guard Brad Oleson added 10 as the Basque outfit buried 13 three-pointers and combined for 18 assists, six more than Maccabi.

"I knew it would be a tough game and in the end my players had the mental toughness to fight back and I congratulate them," said Caja's Croatian coach Zan Tabak, who turned around the team's fortunes when he took over from Montenegrin Dusko Ivanovic after their dreadful start.

"We will continue to take it one game at a time and not worry about the standings," he added.

Olympiakos, who also endured a patchy start to the season, led from start to finish in front of 9,000 home fans and ran out comfortable winners against Besiktas Istanbul after versatile guard Vassilis Spanoulis netted 18 points for the Greek and European club champions.

CSKA Moscow made light work of their 75-57 win at Alba Berlin thanks to 17 points by playmaker Milos Teodosic and 15 from fellow Serbian centre Nenad Krstic, while Nikola Mirotic led Real with 19 points in an 82-67 away defeat of Brose Baskets Bamberg.

Zalgiris, who won the title in 1999 and emerged as one of the dark horses this season, downed Unicaja Malaga 75-63 thanks to a strong final quarter as Mindaugas Kuzminskas scored a game-high 14 points and Paulius Jankunas chipped in with 11 for the Lithuanians.

(Editing by Mark Meadows)

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