Top 16 Round 14: On to the playoffs!
After a thrilling final round of the Top 16, the matchups for the 2014-15 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs are all set and four scintillating series can be expected. Reigning champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Panathinaikos Athens and Anadolu Efes Istanbul claimed the remaining spots on Thursday. CSKA Moscow wrapped up first place in Group F, and will play Panathinaikos in the playoffs. Real Madrid took top spot in Group E and will square off against Anadolu Efes. Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul gets Maccabi while FC Barcelona faces Olympiacos Piraeus.
In the final game of the Top 16 on Friday night, Real Madrid clinched first place in Group E with a99-83 win over Zalgiris Kaunas. With Sergio Rodriguez orchestrating the offense with 17 points and 7 assists, and Jaycee Carroll netting 16 points, Madrid used a 13-2 fourth quarter run to pull away from the upset-minded visitors. Madrid finished with an 11-3 record, the same as FC Barcelona, which handled Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul 65-88 on the road earlier in the day. But Madrid held a tie-breaker over Barcelona in the two home wins they split against each other, and so claimed first place and set up a playoff series with Anadolu Efes Istanbul. Meanwhile, Barcelona will enter its playoffs series against Olympiacos Piraeus on an eight-game winning streak. A 0-10 run at the start of the fourth quarter paved the way to victory over Galatasaray. Ante Tomic led the way with 20 points, and Tibor Pleiss amassed 12 points and 12 rebounds. One day earlier, on Thursday, the outcome of one game was enough to decide the teams that claimed the final two playoffs spots in Group E. Defending Turkish Airlines Euroleague champion Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv outlasted ALBA Berlin 64-73 at O2 World in the German capital to clinch third place and a playoff matchup with Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul. In the other key game, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade edged Panathinaikos Athens 69-68, but it was Maccabi's victory that sent Panathinaikos through to the playoffs. ALBA and Panathinaikos both finished the Top 16 with 7-7 records, but Panathinaikos claimed the last remaining playoff berth on a tiebreaker over ALBA. In Berlin, Devin Smith sank seven three-pointers, the last one sparking a game-ending 1-7 run that Maccabi used to hold on to victory. Smith finished with a career-high 28 points and tied a Maccabi record with the 7 triples, while Brian Randle added 13 points in victory. In Belgrade's Hala Pionir, Boban Marjanovic made game-winning free throws with 2.2 seconds to go as Crvena Zvezda rallied late for a thrilling win over Panathinaikos. Zvezda trailed 50-58 in the fourth quarter, but never stopped fighting to pull out the victory as Marjanovic finished with a double-double, his record-breaking sixteenth of the season, and amassed 12 points and 16 rebounds. The big man broke two more single-season records along the way, setting a mark for most rebounds in a season with 256, and the biggest accumulated performance index rating with 616 this season.
The final playoff spot and first place in the group were on the line in the final week of action in Group F. When all was said and done, first place went to CSKA Moscow, which routed EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 79-88 on Thursday at Mediolanum Forum in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. CSKA will face Panathinaikos in the playoffs, after a victory in which it built a 20-point lead in the second quarter and never looked back. Sasha Kaun paced the CSKA attack with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting plus 8 rebounds. Andrey Vorontesevich and Andrei Kirilenko each added 14 for the winners. The result improved CSKA to 12-2 record, in front of 11-3 Fenerbahce Ulker, which downed crosstown rival Anadolu Efes Istanbul 83-72 earlier in the day in the Game of the Week. Efes turned out to be a lucky loser, after it was bailed out later during Thursday evening when Unicaja Malaga beat Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 93-84. Fenerbahce led for the majority of the contest against an Istanbul rival, but after Efes went in front 59-61, it was Andrew Goudelock with key baskets down the stretch to seal the outcome. Goudelock led the winners with 24 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 17 in victory. Unicaja Malaga finished its Euroleague season in style behind Ryan Toolson who netted 17 points and Jayson Granger who added 15 with 6 assists. Unicaja led 43-36 at halftime, before pulling away in the third quarter and boosting its margin to 85-68 in the fourth, sealing a victory, while ending Laboral's Euroleague
campaign. Third place Olympiacos Piraeus wrapped up action in Group F with 77-70 win over Nizhny Novgorod behind 17 points plus 8 rebounds from Matt Lojeski on Friday. He hit one of three triples in the fourth quarter, along with Georgios Printezis and Vangelis Mantzaris, to push Olympiacos lead to 71-62, sealing the deal in the Peace and Friendship Stadium.
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