By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) - Eight-times Euroleague winners Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow led the way as the established teams celebrated big victories on Friday halfway through the preliminary group stage of the marathon 24-team competition.
CSKA, who have won six titles, crushed 1992 champions Partizan Belgrade 88-46 to bounce back from successive defeats by Fenerbahce Istanbul and Barcelona thanks to a superb performance by their perimeter shooters.
CSKA's former NBA forward Sonny Weems nailed 18 points, Vitaly Fridzon added 16 and Serb shooting guard Vladimir Micov contributed 15 as Partizan hit only 16 of 43 field goals in Moscow.
"We played great defense, protected the paint and put pressure on their shooters," CSKA's Italian coach Ettore Messina told the competition's official website (www.euroleague.net).
"On the other side, we moved the ball well and quickly and that had a positive effect on our shooting percentage."
Holders Olympiakos Piraeus scraped a 79-77 home win over Polish debutants Stelmet Zielona Gora, stretching their perfect start to five wins on the back of 21 points from Georgios Printezis and 18 by inspirational playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis.
Stelmet threatened to spring a major upset after leading by eight points at the end of the third quarter, but a strong final period allowed Olympiakos to come out on top.
Russia's newcommers Lokomotiv Kuban improved their record to 4-1 after edging Spaniards Laboral Kutxa 85-84 at home, with American guard Derrick Brown capping a blistering individual performance with a game-high 23 points.
Red Star Belgrade celebrated a second straight win after opening with three defeats, overpowering Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 88-77 backed by a frenetic 8,000 home crowd in the Pionir Arena.
Double former champions Barcelona strolled to an 84-74 win at Budivelnik Kiev and Fenerbahce made it a perfect five wins with the 83-66 home defeat of Nanterre on Thursday.
However, their exploits were eclipsed by Wednesday's effervescent display from Real.
The Spanish giants mauled Anadolu Efes Istanbul 103-57 with five of their players finishing with double figures led by Greek center Ioannis Bourousis who had 17 points and seven rebounds.
"Our intensity level was tremendous for the entire 40 minutes and we clearly hurt our opponents with good defense that opened a lot of fast breaks," said Real coach Pablo Laso.
"We played intelligent offence, attacking some rival players we had scouted before the game."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)