Game Center, Round 27: Panathinaikos, Madrid advance to playoffs
The final two-round week of the season tipped off on Tuesday and saw Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens and Real Madrid punch their playoff tickets, even though the latter side lost on the road. All four Tuesday games were won by the hosts, including Zalgiris Kaunas, which – like Khimki Moscow Region, could potentially advance on Wednesday.
Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul 87-73 Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv
Fenerbahce is closer to clinching home-court advantage for the playoffs after beating Maccabi 87-73 at Ulker Sports Arena on Tuesday. Fenerbahce improved to 19-8 in the standings while dropping Maccabi to 13-14. Maccabi started strong and led 18-26 midway through the second quarter, but Kostas Sloukas, Luigi Datome and Brad Wanamaker combined for 25 points in the final six minutes of the first half to give Fenerbahce the lead for good, 45-36. The hosts boosted their margin to 74-56 after 30 minutes and never looked back. Marko Guduric led the winners with 23 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting and Datome added 16 for Fenerbahce. Pierre Jackson led Maccabi with 13 points.
Zalgiris Kaunas 77-65 AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan
Aaron White single-handedly outscored Milan 14-3 in a run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to give Zalgiris control for good en route to a 77-65 victory on Tuesday at Zalgirio Arena. The visitors led by 5 late in the third quarter, but once the Lithuanian champs got going they never stopped in improving their record to 16-11. Aaron White finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds to lead Zalgiris, while Kevin Pangos dished 10 assists. Former Zalgiris center Arturas Gudaitis shined with 19 points and 10 rebounds for Milan in a defeat that dropped the team's record to 9-18.
Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens 91-71 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade
Panathinaikos secured its place in the playoffs with a 91-71 victory over visiting Crvena Zvezda on Tuesday night. The win lifted Panathinaikos to 16-11 and part of a three-way tie for fourth place. The Greens led from start to finish, opening the game with a 17-2 lead to take control and then used a big start to the third quarter to pull away to a 20-point margin that broke the game open. Nick Calathes starred in victory with 17 points, 10 assists, a career-high 6 steals and 5 rebounds in less than 25 minutes. Chris Singleton had 21 points on 4-for-5 three-point shooting as Panathinaikos saw each player play at least nine minutes and score at least 2 points. Dejan Davidovac netted 17 points for Crvena Zvezda, which dropped to 11-16 and was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Valencia Basket 96-88 Real Madrid
In an all-Spanish showdown in the EuroLeague, Valencia bested Madrid 96-88 at home on Tuesday. Valencia improved to 10-17 in the standings and Madrid dropped to 16-11. Despite the loss, Madrid had reason to smile; 〈i〉Los Blancos〈/i〉 qualified for the playoffs earlier when Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul topped Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Bojan Dubljevic led the winners with 17 points and Tibor Pleiss added 14. Valencia led 46-40 at halftime and extended its margin to 70-60 after 30 minutes. Madrid managed to get within 80-75 with four minutes left, but Joan Sastre had 9 points in crunch time to seal a prestigious home win for Valencia. Facu Campazzo and Jeffery Taylor led Madrid with 17 points apiece. Campazzo added 12 assists for a double-double.
CSKA Moscow vs Olympiacos Piraeus
League-leading CSKA (21-5) can ensure it owns first place at the end of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season by defeating an Olympiacos (18-8) team desperate to bounce back from a comprehensive home loss to Barcelona last week. The in-form Russian giant has won eight consecutive games at home and exceeded the 90-point mark in six of those contests. But Olympiacos won at Real Madrid and Panathinaikos in its last two road games and will be keen to claim another big-name scalp in a battle of giants which could well end up being repeated again at the Final Four.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul vs Khimki Moscow Region
Last-placed Efes (6-20) could see itself condemned to finish the season in last place if it loses to visiting Khimki (15-11), which is eager to tie up a playoff spot as soon as possible. Khimki will advance if its wins and Fenerbahce defeats Maccabi a day earlier. Efes has tasted defeat in its last five games, going down by at least 9 points on each occasion. Khimki is best known for the relentless scoring exploits of Alexey Shved (22.0 points per game), but has also claimed the second-highest number of steals in the competition – 7.3 per game. Efes has allowed its opponents to convert a higher percentage of three-pointers than any other team (42.2%), so Shved will look to profit from downtown again.
Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz vs Brose Bamberg
After finally breaking into the top half of the standings last week, Baskonia (13-13) will now attempt to hold onto that position by overcoming a Brose (10-16) team that has lost 10 in a row on its travels. Another Brose loss would see its slim playoff chances come to an end. The same would be true if Maccabi wins on Tuesday. Baskonia is the joint third-highest scoring team in the league, averaging 82.2 points per game, and has been particularly effective from long distance with an average of 9.8 triples per game. Brose, in contrast, ranks dead last in two-point conversion, making just 49.2% of its shots from inside the arc. Baskonia has won its last three home games by 19, 10 and 20 points.
Unicaja Malaga vs FC Barcelona Lassa
The second all-Spanish affair of the week comes between a pair of teams aiming for a strong finish to the season as Unicaja (10-16) looks to stay ahead of Barcelona (9-17). The visitors can secure a third consecutive win for the first time all season; Barcelona is arguably the competition’s hottest team after winning its last two games by 34 and 27 points. And although that’s too late for playoff qualification, Barcelona will look to avenge a Round 13 home loss against an Unicaja team that has lost three in a row, surrendering an average of 90.3 points in the process. Another Unicaja defeat would formally end its playoff chances.