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Euroleague.TV Rewind: Playoffs, Game 1
CSKA Moscow 56-47 Partizan
Stealing back the momentum
CSKA Moscow led from start to finish in its record-setting victory over Partizan in the opening game of their best-of-five playoff sereis. The defending Euroleague champs dominated the game early as CSKA set a playoffs defensive record by holding Partizan to just 3 first-quarter points. That led to more defensive records, but CSKA would need its offense in the late going to preserve victory. Partizan slowly worked its way back into the game, and by the fourth quarter began to challenge for the lead. Partizan big man Stephane Lasme cut the deficit to single digits and Jan Vesely's put-back slam made it 7 points, 45-38, with more than 6 minutes left to play in the game. That, however, is when CSKA forward Viktor Khryapa stepped up just when it counted most. His pair of layups – the second with a pretty finish after a timely J.R. Holden steal – slowed Partizan's momentum. After the visitors used a timeout to try to regain their stride,, Khryapa’s crisp pass through the Partizan defense to find Trajan Langdon for a backet made the score 51-40. The icing on the cake came from Ramunas Siskauskas, whose triple ended CSKA's 1-for-18 slump from behind the arc and cleared the way for a crucial, record-breaking Game 1 victory over the same team that had given the champs the most trouble during the season until now.
GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Panathinaikos 90-85 Montepaschi Siena
Breaking a slump as 18,000 friends cheer
In the highest-scoring playoff game since 2005, it was no surprise that great shooting should break it. With under 5 minutes left and Montepaschi having rallied to within a basket of the lead at 76-74, Panathinaikos found an answer man in Antonis Fotsis, whose bookend triples started and finished a 12-3 response by the Greens. First, Fotsis broke out of a six-week, 2-for-15 three-point shooting slump by calmly blasting his first triple attempt of the night from the corner on an assist by Drew Nicholas. Next, it was Nicholas himself hitting nothing but the net from way downtown to make it 82-74. After an emergency timeout by Montepaschi, the Greens kept rocking as Sarunas Jasikevicius faked a triple to feed Nikola Pekovic in the paint for a three-point play. And then, to top it all off, Fotsis returned to the same spot where he started the rally, took a perfect pass this time from Vassilis Spanoulis and buried the back-breaking triple at 88-77 with 2 minutes left. That left no doubt about which team was winning Game 1 and gave 18,000 fans a good excuse to raise the roof at OAKA.
GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Olympiacos 88-79 Real Madrid
Out of nowhere, taking over
Based on the first three quarters, Game 1 of the Quarterfinal Playoff series between Olympiacos and Real Madrid was destined to come down to the final shot. The Reds dominated early and led by 18 in the second quarter. The Whites made short work of that difference, however, bridging the second and third quarters with 20 unanswered points to storm back and even hold a slim lead, 63-64, heading into the fourth quarter. The stage was set for drama, but no one had to tell Olympiacos forward Panagiotis Vasilopoulos that his team would rather avoid that on its own floor. In a matter of just a couple of minutes in the fourth quarter, Vasilopoulos had recorded 2 blocks, 2 rebounds and 2 three-pointers that helped the Reds take control of the game and open the series with a big win. His first triple came at the midway point of the period with the Reds pinned down, taking the ball out with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. Vasilopoulos met a pass from Theo Papaloukas and in one motion drilled a picture-perfect triple to ignite his team and the crowd. Soon after Olympiacos took charge as Papaloukas fed Nikola Vujcic for baskets on back-to-back possessions. Then, on both ends of the floor, Vasilopoulos delivered the knockout punch. On defense, he came up with a game-defining block, trailing Madrid big man Axel Hervelle into the lane to swat his shot from behind. That started a break that finished, at the offensive end, with Vasilopoulos drilling another three-pointer that put the Reds up 80-71 with less than 3 minutes remaining. The victory in the first key battle of a five-game war was staying with the Reds.
GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Regal FC Barcelona 75-84 Tau Ceramica
Silencing the crowd, turning the tide
If there was a signature on the only road victory on the first night of the Quarterfinal Playoffs, it belonged to a signature Euroleague star, Pablo Prigioni of Tau Ceramica. Known more as a passer and stealer - he ranks second and third all-time, respectively, in those categories - Prigioni can also score, and seems to relish doing so in big games. His 3 three-pointers early in the game had allowed Tau to play with good leads that eventually reached a high of 40-57 midway through the third quarter. The hosts from Regal FC Barcelonadid not surrender, however, as Roger Grimau, Ersan Ilyasova and Juan Carlos Navarro brought the hosts within 72-77 with less than 3 minutes to play. With all Barcelona fans putting incredible pressure on the ensuing Tau offensive possession and shot clock running down, Prigioni silenced the crowd. With no teammates getting open and the shot-clock winding down, Prigioni stepped back and fired from 8 meters a three-pointer that kissed through the net and stopped Barcelona's rally in its tracks. Jaka Lakovic missed at the other end and before Prigioni made the most out of a pick-and-roll situation to expertly feed Will McDonald for an easy layup that ended all doubt. Barcelona called timeout at 72-82 but the outcome had already been sealed. Prigioni finished with 4 three-pointers and 8 assists to make sure the homecourt advantage in the series turned to Tau's side after just one game.
GAME VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Euroleague.TV Guest Viewer
Back for another turn as special guest viewer on EBTV is two-time former Euroleague champ Johnny Rogers, who watched all four games, live or on-demand, focusing especially on the victory by Panathinaikos, his old team:
Panathinaikos 90-85 Montepaschi
"The key to Panathinaikos winning, for me, was their big guys. It's true, the whole team did a lot right - moving the ball, spreading the floor, their defense - but I really like their pick-'n'-roll from the center of the floor with Pekovic and Batiste. Those two are so difficult to guard because they set great picks and dive quickly to basket, really better than anyone else I've seen. That leaves the shooters in the corners, and with triple-threat players like Spanoulis and Jasikevicius - who can shoot long, drive or pass - that offense is hard to stop. Panathinaikos attacked inside early and Siena's centers got in foul trouble. Siena tried a zone and a smaller lineup that gave Panathinaikos matchup problems and didn't hurt Siena on the boards, because they got a lot of long rebounds. I thought McIntyre would be the toughest matchup for Panathinaikos, but he didn't go aggressively at the basket until the second half. Sato gave Panathinaikos problems from the very first minute and played three positions, scoring from all of them with great percentages. Siena came back and tied, but Panathinaikos kept its composure down stretch with big three-pointers from Fotsis and Nicholas. I was actually surprised that Siena came back because the inside game was all Panathinaikos. With Lavrinovic hurt, Stonerook playing outside and Eze in foul trouble, Siena was so outside-oriented that the Panathinaikos big guys had it easy on defense. Panathinaikos, meanwhile, put the ball inside first and outside from there, with the shooters open. I also have to mention bench scoring, 39-7 in favor of Panathinaikos, which is a sign of their depth. In these games, depth makes a difference, at the ends of games in terms of keeping composer, and can have the same effect at the end of five games."
Tau 75-84 Barcelona
Tau dominated the game from the start and looked comfortable on the court. They used pressure defense, great execution and a good transition game. They were just playing at a faster pace on both ends of the court, a different speed. Barcelona tried to get back in the game several times - only when it played better defense - but never sustained any runs. Prigioni set the tone at both ends for Tau and showed why the point guard position is so important to teams, especially in big games with this one. I am not a fan of zone defense, but when Barcelona couldn't stop Prigioni, Mickeal, Rakocevic and Splitter with any regularity, I thought they could have used ones. Some teams, like Tau, are just impossible to guard man-to-man for 40 minutes, especially with Prigioni being on like he was, choosing between the others and his own shot. He doesn't shoot much normally, but he's a big-game scorer, as he showed. The only time Barça had Tau uncomfortable was with Grimau, Sada and Navarro in together and chasing everyone. Lakovic tried, but he's not 100 percent and, though he had a couple great drives, wasn't hitting his outside shot. Tau was up 18 when Prigioni got his third foul and Barcelona immediately had an 11-0 run, eventually cutting it to 5 points. When Prigioni came back, though, Tau regained control for good."
CSKA 56-47 Partizan
"I expected a better performance from Partizan, but for some reason, they seemed intimidated at the start of the game, which was surprising because they won in Moscow earlier this season and should have beaten CSKA in Belgrade, too. Partizan scoring only 3 points is credit to CSKA's tough defense, but a key to that defense is how they attack on offense: disciplined and without turnovers. That doesn't allow Partizan to get into transition and get easy baskets. Partizan had some success with its 2-3 zone defense, but couldn't make that into a game-changer. CSKA soon got the ball inside on every play, whether against zone or man-to-man defense. Getting the ball to the low post early in every possession is the key for them. No one holds the ball, they all move constantly and running the offense through the paint makes them very tough to guard. CSKA has to be pleased to win with Khryapa and Lorbek as the key scorers and their usual big guns having off nights. The defense was enough, and those big guns won't be down every night on offense."
Olympiacos 88-79 Madrid
"Olympiacos came out strong and dominated early, scoring 28 points in the first quarter by moving the ball well and using its transition game to go up by 15 or more. Vujcic was amazing. In the second quarter, Real Madrid changed to a zone with twin point guards, Lopez and Llull, to come back form dead. Madrid has come back a lot this season, but this time couldn't finish the job. Olympiacos tightened its defense and forced some key turnovers. Papaloukas came through in the tough moments, while Vasilopoulos had great plays just when they were needed. Lynn Greer, a quiet force for them, was also important at the end. Let's get back to Vujcic, though. If he plays the way he did and Bourousis as he did all year before Tuesday, Olympiacos will be tough to beat in this series, even without Schortsanitis. Real Madrid has a small frontcourt, short and tough and full of fighters, but without a big, intimidating player. Bourousis could end up giving them problems and Vujcic is just amazing. It's as simple as this: when he's on the floor, his team is always better. Always. You can see it right away, and not many guys have that effect all the time."
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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