Partizan NIS Belgrade entered Round 6 with first place in Group E clinched, but had plenty to play for. Partizan knew a win would give it the best record in the Top 16 and homecourt advantage in each series it plays for the rest of the season. It made the tilt with Energia Dolomiti Trento a must-win affair and Partizan passed the test.
"It is like in a video game: Mission accomplished. Now the level goes up," Partizan head coach Andrea Trinchieri summed up.
With the stakes high, Partizan was far from perfect on Wednesday night against a depleted opponent missing its best scorer, Alessandro Gentile, and with nothing but pride to play for.
"We were bad in the first half. We were slow, late, and not serious enough to play our basketball," Trinchieri stressed after the 16-point win. "I have to acknowledge that we had 20 turnovers and the best shooter of the opposing team hit 5 for 7 threes. That says we were not even close to being perfect."
But Partizan stepped it up in the second half and won big thanks to its 40-24 rebounding domination and helped by 27 assists, which tied for its EuroCup club-record. It helped the hosts to break the game open and cruise to victory in the fourth quarter.
Success on Wednesday night has made Partizan the only team with a 5-1 record in the Top 16, and with the highest point-difference, plus-71, too. With one of the toughest home courts in all of basketball, this advantage could be of crucial importance. But Trinchieri, who coached UNICS to the EuroCup Finals back in 2014 and won the EuroCup Coach of the Year award that season, knows well the challenge that lies ahead.
"Now the Top 16 is over, the playoffs start. It is something new, something different, we have to raise our level," Trinchieri said. "I would love that my team would embrace this challenge. It is a big challenge for us to be among the best eight teams in the EuroCup."