Game Center: Regular Season, Round 28
Only one ticket to the playoffs remains after Anadolu Efes held off rival Fenerbahce in the Istanbul to advance and eliminate Zalgiris Kaunas. Friday’s big game is another Istanbul derby; Darussfaka Dogus hosts Galatasaray Odeabank and if the hosts lose, they open the door for Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade to claim the final remaining playoff berth later in the evening.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul secured a spot in the playoffs by holding off a late Fenerbahce Istanbul charge for an 80-77 victory on Thursday at Abdi Ipekci Arena. Efes led from start to finish for its third straight victory and the seventh in its last eight games. The win took Efes’s record to 16-12, while Fenerbahce, which had already clinched a playoff berth, fell to 17-11. The hosts led by as many as 17 points before Bogdan Bogdanovic came off the bench to help Fenerbahce rally in the second half. The deficit was shrunk to 2 in the final minute and Fenerbahce had a shot to tie it in the closing seconds, but Bobby Dixon missed. Bryant Dunston paced the Efes attack with 14 points and Jayson Granger tallied 13 points and 5 assists. Dixon led Fenerbahce with 19 points and 8 rebounds and Bogdanovic scored 16 and dished 4 assists in 17 minutes.
Zalgiris Kaunas bounced back from a home loss by topping Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv 77-93 on the road at Menorah Mivtachim Arena on Thursday. Zalgiris improved to 13-15, but despite its win was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs race earlier in the evening when Anadolue Efes Istanbul won. Maccabi dropped to 10-18. Edgaras Ulanovas led the winners with 20 points. Victor Rudd paced Maccabi with 16 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Zalgiris used a late 0-10 run to take a 33-44 halftime advantage. Maccabi made 14 of 24 three-point shots (58.3%), but Zalgiris dominated in the paint, making 31-of-48 shots inside the arc (64.6%). Zalgiris dished 23 assists and committed only 9 turnovers in one of the biggest keys to its win.
Brose Bamberg withstood a spirited comeback from EA7 Emporio Armani Milan as Coach Andrea Trinchieri and power forward Nicolo Melli made a winning return to the Italian city by securing a 76-84 triumph. At first it looked easy, with Bamberg going 20 ahead in the second quarter. But Milan gradually whittled the deficit down to just 5 points, until a final flurry from the visitors sealed the outcome. Fabien Causeur was Bamberg’s outstanding performer; he scored 17 points with a key late triple to secure the victory and Melli combined 9 points with 8 rebounds. Miroslav Raduljica was a powerhouse for Milan with 19 points and 9 rebounds, while Ricky Hickman netted 20 points on 5-of-10 three-point shooting. But Bamberg’s team display of long-range shooting, with seven different players hitting triples as the team went 10 of 21, eventually made the difference.
In a battle of playoff-bound teams hoping to snatch home-court advantage, Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens went on the road to lead from tip to buzzer in beating Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz 63-72 on Thursday. The victory improved Panathinaikos’s record to 17-11, which is the same as fourth-place Fenerbahce Istanbul, but Fenerbahce has the tiebreak advantage. The victory also gave Panathinaikos a season-sweep of Baskonia, which dropped to 16-12 and seventh place. Panathinaikos had a dream start, not allowing Baskonia to get into any offensive rhythm. The Greens needed no time to open a double-digit margin and their lead was as big as 22 points in the third quarter, before Baskonia attempted a late charge, but never really threatened. Chris Singleton was all over the place for the winners with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocked shots and Nick Calathes collected 8 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals. Adam Hanga finished the game with 13 points in the losing effort.
On Friday, a Russian derby pits together teams with opposite intentions as CSKA Moscow (20-7) seek to rise to the top of the standings while Unics Kazan (7-20) hopes to avoid dropping to bottom place. It is a meeting between the league’s most prolific offense and the third-worst, with CSKA averaging 87.6 points per game while Unics has mustered just 76.6. But the home team, looking for its first win in more than two months, does have a slight edge in rebounding, averaging 33.4 boards per game against CSKA’s 32.9.
Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul (13-14) knows it can’t afford any more slip-ups as it hosts crosstown rivals Galatasaray Odeabank (10-17). With four wins in its last six games, eliminated Galatasaray is certainly finishing its season with a flourish, and Darussafaka urgently needs to find that kind of form to have any chance of joining the post-season action. But it has won three consecutive home games, mainly thanks to excellent defense which has allowed an average of just 64.3 points over the course of those encounters. More of the same is required on Friday.
If Darussafaka loses, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade (15-12) can take advantage by sealing a playoff spot with a victory at eliminated FC Barcelona Lassa (10-17). Points will be at a premium as the league’s two lowest scoring teams go head to head: Barcelona has averaged 71.6 points per game, and Zvezda 74.4. Expect Zvezda to force the game inside, as the Serbian team has converted the league’s lowest number of three-pointers (6.9 per game) with the worst conversion rate (33.9%), while Barcelona has made the fewest two-point strikes (16.8 per game).
And finally, first-placed Real Madrid (20-7) will attempt to hold onto that position as it travels to face a team which would like to take it off them, Olympiacos Piraeus (19-8). Having lost by 18 points in Madrid on the season’s opening day, the Greek team would love to win by more than that amount to claim head to head advantage. But with both teams already assured of home-court advantage in the play-offs, perhaps the greater goal is claiming superiority ahead of a potential Final Four meeting. And it will be a familiar story of Olympiacos’s top-ranked defense (73.1 points per game allowed) attempting to stop Madrid’s second-ranked offense (87 points per game scored).
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