Playoffs Game 3: Two sweeps on the table, two ties to be broken
The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs return to action Tuesday with the first two Game 3s of the best-of-five playoff series, which will be followed by two more on Wednesday. This time, the teams that placed fifth through eighth in the regular season standings get the opportunity to play in front of their home crowds. For KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz on Tuesday and Khimki Moscow Region, these are must-win games to avoid respective sweeps against Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul and CSKA Moscow. Real Madrid and Zalgiris Kaunas, which each won on the road last week to steal the home-court advantage in their respective series, will now try to protect it against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and Olympiacos Piraeus.
Khimki Moscow Region vs. CSKA Moscow (0-2)
The all-Moscow battle heads a few kilometers up the Leningradka highway as Khimki welcomes CSKA knowing that a home victory is imperative to keep its season alive. Khimki has been leaning heavily on three-point shooting so far in this series, attempting 66 long-range shots in the first two games. But to triumph, Khimki will surely need more production from star shooter Alexey Shved, who was restricted to a season-low 12 points in Game 2. CSKA managed to overcome the absence of injured stars Nando De Colo and Kyle Hines in the first two games in large part thanks to the excellence of backcourt magician Sergio Rodriguez, who averaged 24 points and 7.5 assists in the first two games. In the frontcourt, Will Clyburn is in great form for CSKA with averages of 15 points and 8 rebounds. CSKA will look to advance to another Final Four as fast as possible.
Real Madrid vs. Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens (1-1)
After recovering from a shocking performance in Game 1 to grab hold of home-court advantage by winning with great determination in Athens two days later, Madrid will now look to maintain its momentum as this high-powered series heads to the Spanish capital. The possible return of Sergio Llull could give a major boost to a Madrid backcourt which has been left short by the injury to Facundo Campazzo. But the key to Los Blancos’ Game 2 renaissance lay inside the paint, where Trey Thompkins and Gustavo Ayon (6 rebounds apiece) helped provide an enormous 24-43 advantage in the rebounding battle. Panathinaikos’s biggest scoring threat has been Mike James, who is averaging 22 points so far in the series. But the Greens will surely also need another big performance from the league’s leading assister Nick Calathes, who delivered 16 assists in his team’s Game 1 rout, but was held to 5 in Game 2.
Zalgiris Kaunas vs. Olympiacos Piraeus (1-1)
Expect a blood and thunder affair at Zalgirio Arena as Zalgiris attempts to maintain its home-court advantage against resurgent Olympiacos in a tied series that has all the makings of a playoff classic. After the Lithuanian champs triumphed in Game 1, the Reds roared back on Friday with a dominant defensive performance and plenty of offensive help from Jamel McLean, who compensated for the loss of injured Nikola Milutinov by scoring 21 points on 8-of-12 two-point shooting. Olympiacos has two key players – Georgios Printezis and Kostas Papanikolaou – regaining rhythm after injury absences, but will face a stern test from a Zalgiris team that has an 11-4 home record this season. Brandon Davies has been outstanding so far in the playoffs with an average of 20.5 points, while Kevin Pangos will be looking to bounce back from a rare quiet night after being held to just 5 points – his lowest since December – in Game 2.
KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz vs Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul (0-2)
Reigning champ Fenerbahce is just one win from booking a Final Four berth, but Baskonia will be desperate to keep it waiting by holding home court on Tuesday. Baskonia has competed well in the series so far, but urgently needs to improve its rebounding after averaging just 24.5 boards – the lowest of all playoffs teams – in the first two games. Jan Vesely, with 7 rebounds per game in the playoffs so far, will have other ideas about that. Fenerbahce has leaned upon a pair of outstanding performances in the backcourt, with Kostas Sloukas delivering 11 assists in Game 1 and Bradley Wanamaker top-scoring with 19 points two days later. Baskonia will turn to Toko Shengelia and Rodrigue as it tries to save its season. Coach Zeljko Obradovic’s team already won at the Fernando Buesa Arena in the regular season – ending a long list of heavy losses in Vitoria – and Baskonia will have to play at its best to keep this series alive.