Game Center: Barca, Efes, Milan ride home courts to Final Four!
Hard-earned home-court advantage proved the difference-maker as an unprecedented three Game 5s in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs on Tuesday night were won by their hosts. After Anadolu Efes Istanbul, AX Armani Exchange Milan and FC Barcelona all punched their tickets to the Final Four, home teams are now 13-0 in Game 5s since 2009 when the format was introduced. Efes cut it close at home before Krunoslav Simon's three-pointer with 38 seconds left broke a tie in an eventual 88-83 victory over Real Madrid. Next, AX Armani Exchange Milan withstood 10 points over 50 seconds in the final 2 minutes to outlast FC Bayern Munich 92-89 as Shavon Shields starred. And FC Barcelona turned on its defense, including 4 blocks from Pau Gasol, to stop Zenit St Petersburg 79-53. The Final Four in Cologne, Germany, on May 28 will see already qualified CSKA Moscow take on Efes in one semifinal while Barcelona and Milan square off in the other.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 3-2 Real Madrid
Anadolu Efes Istanbul held off a feisty Real Madrid squad to clinch a spot at the 2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Cologne, Germany. Efes won 88-83 on Tuesday at Sinan Erdem Sports Hall to take their best-of-five EuroLeague Playoffs series 3-2. The game was not decided until the final minute and featured six lead changes and five ties in the fourth quarter alone. Krunoslav Simon broke an 80-80 tie with a desperation three-pointer with 38.6 seconds remaining and after Sergio Llull missed from downtown on the next possession, Chris Singleton gathered the rebound, was fouled and made 2 free throws to all but clinch the victory. Singleton tied his career-high with 26 points and added 8 rebounds, Vasilije Micic scored 18 and dished 5 assists, Simon finished with 17 points and Shane Larkin scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. Nicolas Laprovittola led the Real attack with 17 points, Trey Thompkins added 12 points and Jaycee Carroll and Llull scored 10 each.
AX Armani Exchange Milan 3-2 FC Bayern Munich
AX Armani Exchange Milan narrowly avoided a massive collapse in ending a nearly three-decade wait by defeating FC Bayern Munich 92-89 at home in Game 5 to reach the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. Shavon Shields poured in a career-high 34 points to lead the three-time European champion, which last played in the Final Four in 1992. Milan led by as many as 17 points and was still up 12 points with 78 seconds left in the game. But through a series full of amazing comebacks, Bayern did not give up and had possession of the ball down just 2 points in the final 14 seconds until Kyle Hines came up with a big defensive stop for Milan - to go along with his 12 points and 7 rebounds. Malcolm Delaney added 16 points as Milan avoided becoming the first team in EuroLeague history to lose a playoff series after winning the first two games. Bayern was paced by Jalen Reynolds with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Wade Baldwin IV had 17 points, JaJuan Johnson scored 14, DJ Seeley 11 and Paul Zipser chipped in 10. Bayern just missed becoming the first road team to win a Game 5 in a playoffs series and the first German club to reach the EuroLeague Final Four.
FC Barcelona 3-2. Zenit St Petersburg
FC Barcelona advanced to the 2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four after routing Zenit St Petersburg 79-53 at Palau Blaugrana on Tuesday. After splitting the first four games of the best-of-five series, Barcelona dominated Game 5 and punched its ticket to the Final Four for the first time in seven years. Cory Higgins led the winners with 15 points, Nick Calathes added 12 and Brandon Davies and Kyle Kuric each scored 11 for Barcelona. Alex Poythress led Zenit with 11 points and Kevin Pangos dished 10 assists in defeat. Davies and Pau Gasol helped Barcelona to a 23-14 lead after 10 minutes. Kuric and Leandro Bolmaro boosted the margin to 43-30 at halftime and little changed after the break, as Barcelona boosted its margin to 57-39 at the end of the third quarter and had plenty of time to celebrate a historic win.