Playoffs, Game 2: Panathinaikos, TAU Ceramica are first two in Final Four
Euroleague Basketball fans, say hello to the first two Final Four qualifiers! Panathinaikos and Tau Ceramica registered respective road wins in Game 2 of the Quarterfinal Playoffs to sweep their best-of-three series and will now face each other in one of the semifinals at the Final Four in Athens, Greece, on May 4. The names of the rivals for the other semifinal will have to wait, however, as anything can still happen! Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv and Winterthur FC Barcelona managed to stay alive and force Game 3 in their respective playoff series against CSKA Moscow and Unicaja.Panathinaikos downed Dynamo Moscow 65-73 in the Russian capital to win their head-to-head series 2-0 and to become the first team to advance to the Final Four. Ramunas Siskauskas had 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter to put the Greens ahead for good. Dimitris Diamantidis added 11 points and Mike Batiste had 10, while former Panathinaikos center Lazaros Papadopoulos led Dynamo with 13 points. The Greens outrebounded Dynamo by 36-23 and fulfilled their dream to play the Final Four on their own home court, the Athens Olympic Indoor Hall (OAKA). Soon after, it was another sweep as Tau Ceramica beat Olympiacos 89-95 in Piraeus, Greece, and advanced to its third consecutive Final Four. Luis Scola led the winners with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Tiago Splitter added 18 points on 7-of-9 two-point shooting and 9 rebounds, while Igor Rakocevic had 17 points for Tau. Alex Acker led five Olympiacos players in double digits with 19 points. Tau stayed calm at the foul line in the final 2 minutes to hold off an Olympiacos rally and win the series 2-0. Maccabi Elite defeated CSKA Moscow 68-56 to tie their best-of-three series at 1-1. The victory snapped CSKA's string of 18 consecutive Euroleague victories, the best in-season win streak in the competition's history. Maccabi beat CSKA at its own game, too, setting a new defensive record for the fewest points allowed in a Quarterfinal Playoffs game. Ironically, CSKA held the previous mark with a 66-57 home win against Efes Pilsen last season. Nikola Vujcic led Maccabi with 15 points and 9 rebounds, Will Bynum added 14 points and 5 assists and Lior Eliyahu finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Oscar Torres led CSKA with 12 points and Trajan Langdon had 11 before fouling out. CSKA hosts Maccabi in Game 3 on Thursday in a direct fight for a Final Four spot. Last but not least, Barcelona topped Unicaja 80-58 in Palau Blaugrana to force a Game 3 in Malaga next week. Juan Carlos Navarro paced the winners with 25 points in just 18 minutes on near-perfect shooting. Navarro made 3 of 3 two-point shots, 5 of 6 triples and 4 of 4 free throws. Barcelona led 41-30 at halftime and Navarro had 15 points in the third quarter to push the hosts ahead 64-48 and seal the outcome. Both CSKA and Unicaja, the losers from Thursday, now have a whole week to prepare for Game 3 at home, while Maccabi and Barcelona will try to ride their momentum into road wins that take them all the way to the Final Four.