In their last domestic-league action before the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, the quartet of would-be continental champions stayed on the winning track in big games. CSKA Moscow swept its playoffs quarterfinal series, while Olympiacos Piraeus, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul and Real Madrid all clinched first place in their respective regular seasons. Next stop for each is the Final Four, starting with the 2015 Madrid Tip-Off Event on Thursday.
CSKA sweeps into VTB semis
CSKA Moscow stormed to the semifinals of the VTB United League playoffs, after sweeping Astana in their best-of-five series. Despite playing without Andrei Kirilenko and with Vitaly Fridzon, who is still recovering from a broken finger, CSKA left no doubt in drubbing Astana 110-60 in Game 2 on its home floor on Monday, then clinching the series on Thursday with 75-111 road win for a clean 3-0 series victory. In Game 3, CSKA opened by scoring on its first eight trips down the floor. With Milos Teodosic, Sonny Weems, Sasha Kaun, Andrey Vorontsevich getting the offense rolling, and Victory Khryapa setting the defensive tone early on, CSKA took control with a 5-17 start. Astana did close within 24-29 in the second quarter, but now it was Aaron Jackson, Kyle Hines and Vorontsevich who fueled another CSKA run, which Khryapa capped for a 32-50 margin. After the break, CSKA kept running transition whenever possible, and rarely missing any open looks, of which there were plenty. Nando De Colo’s long jumper broke the 20-point barrier, 50-70 after 4 minutes in the third quarter, and a layup from Hines made it 64-94 early in the fourth. Head coach Dimitris Itoudis had six scorers in double figures: Vorontsevich scored 19, De Colo finished with 15, Kaun and Khryapa each had 13, Weems and Hines 10. It was a similar sight to what happened in Game 2, where Jackson also played team-high 22 minutes, and five players finished in double figures. Manuchar Markoishvili led the way in that one with 18 points, while De Colo scored 15, Kaun had 13, Khryapa 12 and Weems 10.
Fenerbahce wins Turkish regular season
In the final week of the Turkish League regular season, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul easily handled its great city rival Besiktas Integral Forex 74-94 to lock up home-court advantage in the playoffs. Fenerbahce led from the opening possession all the way to the finish. Melih Mahmutoglu got his team going, hitting 4 triples in 4 minutes for 8-19 lead. When Nikos Zisis, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica and Andrew Goudelock joined in, the margin rapidly increased to 13-31 after only 9 minutes of play, and Fenerbahce was already on its way to the victory it needed to clinch the first place. Mahmutoglu hit his fifth three-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer to make it 15-36. The margin broke the 30-point barrier, 23-53, with less than 3 minutes left in the second quarter. Serhat Cetin and Oguz Savas extended the score to 29-66 early in the third, as Fenerbahce could already think ahead to its first-ever Euroleague Final Four. Mahmutoglu scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter, Bogdanovic netted 20 and Savas had 12 in victory. After the Final Four, in the Turkish playoff quarterfinals, Fenerbahce will face it arch-rival Galatasaray Liv Hospital.
Olympiacos finishes first in Greece
Olympiacos Piraeus ended the Greek League regular season with a pair of victories, to extend its winning streak to 24 games. It had previously clinched first place and home-court advantage in the playoffs. The Reds first played in Thessaloniki against long-time rival Aris, registering a 58-69 win. Head coach Giannis Sfairopouluos was without Vangelis Mantzaris, Tremmell Darden and Oliver Lafayette, and his team fell behind 24-12 after the opening 7 minutes. However, with Vassilis Spanoulis orchestrating the offense, Ioannis Papapetrou scoring six points while Brent Petway and Dimitirs Agravanis also contributed as the Reds soon forged a 26-26 tie. Aris did take a 38-36 lead into halftime, but Georgios Printezis, Othello Hunter and Spanoulis did not allow the hosts to pull away after the break, a go-ahead triple by Kostas Sloukas at 48-51 put Olympiacos ahead for good. Back-to-back threes from Matt Lojeski and Dimitrios Katsivelis during a 0-12 run helped open a 52-67 margin in the fourth period, and Olympiacos cruised to victory. The Reds outrebounded the hosts 43-27 as Sloukas finished with 14 points and Papapetrou scored 10. Spanoulis collected 7 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. On Saturday, Olympiacos crushed Panelefsiniakos 104-55, never trailing in a 49-point beating of the visitors. Darden, Mantzaris and Lafayette were all back in the lineup, and Darden led all players with 22 minutes on the floor. Olympiacos never let its foot off the pedal, allowing just 7 points in the final quarter despite already leading 73-48 after 30 minutes. Sloukas and Printezis scored 14 points apiece, Agravanis had 13 plus 6 rebounds, Spanoulis scored 11 with 6 assists, while Papapetrou collected 8 point and 13 boards. After the Final Four, Olympiacos will open the quarterfinals of the Greek League playoffs against Koroivos.
Madrid escapes on Ayon game-winner
Gustavo Ayon made a tip-in with 1.3 seconds to go, completing Real Madrid’s late rally to edge visiting MoraBanc Andorra 84-83 in the Spanish League on Sunday. At the Barclaycard Center, the site of the upcoming Final Four, Madrid trailed for all but a few seconds of the second half, but ended the game with a 0-7 run over 2 minutes that was enough to pull out a victory that clinched first place in the standings and home-court advantage in the playoffs. Madrid played without Rudy Fernandez, but had a great start to the game with Ayon scoring 10 points in the first 6 minutes and Sergio Rodriguez sinking a pair of triples for a 20-6 lead. Los Blancos remained in front behind Jaycee Caroll and Jonas Maciulis, and led32-22 midway through the second quarter, but Thomas Schreiner hit 3triples in the final 3 minutes of the half during a 0-14 run that put Andorra up 38-45 at halftime. The visitors had multiple double-digit leads after the break, before Carroll and Marcus Slaughter helped cut the difference to 61-67 after 30 minutes. Soon triples from Sergio Rodriguez, Andres Nocioni and Maciulis put Madrid in front 72-71 midway through the fourth. However, Andorra regained the lead on the ensuing possession, and a triple apiece from Luka Bogdanovic and Schreiner again helped open a 77-83 lead with 2 minutes to go. That's when Rodriguez made a jumper-plus-free throw, then ran a fastbreak that Felipe Reyes finished with a layup. Madrid also made a pair of defensive stands, and got the ball to Reyes on the hosts’ final possession. He fought in the crowd, but missed twice, only for Ayon to tip in the ball and win it with 1.3 seconds left on the clock. Rodriguez paced Madrid with 18 points on 5-for-7 three-point shooting, and dished 5 assists. Ayon finished with 14 points plus 9 rebounds, Reyes had 12 points plus 6 boards, and Carroll netted 11 in victory.