Playoffs Game 3: Three road teams aim to clinch Final Four spots
The on-going excitement of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs continues on Monday and Tuesday with four Game 3 clashes. Three road teams up 2-0 – Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce Ulker – have a first of three chances each to punch their Final Four tickets, while their respective hosts – Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Panathinaikos Athens and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv – hope to achieve something no other team has done before, which come back from 0-2 down to win a series.
Playoff A: Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs. Real Madrid
In the last Game 3 on Tuesday, Efes will try to stay alive when Madrid comes to town for the second time this season. In their regular-season clash in Istanbul, Efes beat Madrid 75-73 on Matt Janning's put-back at the buzzer. Efes had a chance to steal one, if not both, of the playoff games in Madrid last week, as it held double-digit leads in each of them. But Madrid rallied behind its defense, which forced 32 turnovers in two games, helping the team come back from an 11-point deficit in Game 1 and from 17 points down in Game 2. Madrid also held Efes to 32% three-point shooting over the two games, something Efes will look to improve in front of its fans. Efes has lost eight of its last 10 games, but knows that from now on, one more loss ends its season.
Playoff B: Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv vs. Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul
The action starts on Monday, when the reigning champion Maccabi welcomes Fenerbahce to Menora Mivtachim Arena. Fenerbahce, which leads the series 2-0 and is seeking first-ever trip Final Four qualification, has been playing great on the road all season, winning 10 of 12 games, including a streak of nine away victories in a row. Maccabi led at halftime in Game 1 of this series, but Fenerbahce has controlled the remaining six quarters since then. The reigning champs will need to get back to protecting their own paint, something they have done this season arguably better than any other team ever before. Maccabi held opponents to a Top 16-low 45.7% on two-point shooting, grabbed 26.8 defensive rebounds per game and intimidated opponents with 4.5 blocked shots per game, the best average in the last 13 seasons. So far, Maccabi does lead the playoffs in blocks, but Fenerbahce has scored at a rate of 52.7% inside and has dominated the boards, pulling down a total of 15 more offensive rebounds than Maccabi over two games.
Playoff C: Panathinaikos Athens vs. CSKA Moscow
Also on Monday, Panathinaikos will try to channel its efforts a year ago as it hosts CSKA following losses of 27 and 20 points in the first two games in Moscow. The Greens will try to repeat what they did last season, win two in a row at home against CSKA, to keep the series alive. However, the Greens have lost four games in a row now, and two of the last three on their home floor, while CSKA has the best record on the road in the competition, having won 11 of 12 games away from home. CSKA has averaged 96.5 points in the first two games of the series, dished 55 assists, hit 28 three-pointers and connected on a stunning 51.8% of its shot attempts from behind the arc. All of these are on pace for best-ever marks in the history of the playoffs.
Playoff D: Olympiacos Piraeus vs. FC Barcelona
In the only series that is tied at 1-1, Olympiacos hosts Barcelona on Tuesday. The Reds have won seven straight playoff games Peace and Friendship Stadium, and hope to extend that streak in Game 3 and inch closer to a place in the Final Four. Olympiacos will look to repeat its Game 2 performance, when it made 13-of 27 three-pointers, dished 20 assists and committed only 8 turnovers in 63-76 victory behind Game 2 bwin MVP Georgios Printezis. Its defense has done a terrific job of holding Barcelona to 40.5% two-point shooting and 39% from long range so far in the series. Barcelona has won four times in a row away from home coming into Game 3, and will try to re-discover its offense which averaged 82.1 points in the Top 16, but was held to only 68 points, average, in the first two games.
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