Playoffs Game 3: Zalgiris closes in on Final Four, Baskonia stays alive
The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs returned 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 have the opportunity to play in front of their home crowds. It was an advantage Zalgiris Kaunas made good use of with an 80-60 rout of Olympiacos Piraeus to take a 2-1 series lead. Then Baskonia ended Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul's 11-game playoff winning streak with an 88-83 victory to stay alive in its series. Wednesday presents a must-win situation for Khimki Moscow Region to avoid a sweep at the hands of cross town rival CSKA Moscow, while Real Madrid, which each won on the road last week to steal the home-court advantage, will now try to protect it against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens.
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 80-60 Olympiacos Piraeus (2-1)
Zalgiris took control of the series with an 80-60 rout of Olympiacos at Zalgirio Arena on Tuesday night. The Lithuanian champs grabbed a 2-1 series lead and can clinch a historic Final Four berth if they win Game 4 at home on Thursday. Zalgiris took charge with a 12-0 second-quarter run to lead by as many as 17. Olympiacos battled back to within 47-36 at halftime and Vassilis Spanoulis rallied the Reds to within 7 in the third, but Zalgiris captain Paulius Jankunas stepped up with all his team's points in a 9-1 run and the hosts never looked back. Brandon Davies starred with 18 points and Jankunas finished with 13 for Zalgiris, whose 72.7% two-point shooting (24 of 33) tied for the third-best by any team in playoff history. The hosts outrebounded Olympiacos 33-27 and dished 23 assists to the visitors' 12. Vassilis Spanoulis paced Olympiacos with 14 points. The 20-point loss was the worst playoff defeat for Olympiacos since 2008.
KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz 88-83 Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul (1-2)
With its back against the wall, Baskonia hit 14 three-pointers and used a 15-0 fourth-quarter run to down defending champion Fenerbahce 88-83 on Tuesday. The hosts knocked down 9 three-pointers in the first half and held a 47-38 halftime lead. Baskonia kept the advantage in the third quarter, but Marko Guduric hit 3 triples to help Fenerbahce rally and get within 67-66 going into the fourth quarter. However, Janis Timma strung together 8 points to spark a 15-0 run that opened a 16-point Baskonia lead with less than five minutes to go in the game and the hosts held off Fenerbahce’s final charge. Rodrigue Beaubois led the hosts with 21 points and also dished 5 assists. Marcelinho Huertas had 11 points and 7 assist, while Tornike Shengelia collected 10 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists in the winning effort. Jan Vesely had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Fenerbahce, which had its 11-game playoff winning streak broken.