The second week of Turkish Airlines Euro-league Playoffs turned out to be absolutely amazing in throwing up four of the strongest teams in the Final Four. The completion of this year’s playoff series has ensured that there will be a new champion and great basketball entertainment is on the cards because there could not have been a better table of Final Four. Now two semifinals, a third-place game and the grand finale remain and all these matches have been scheduled to be played at the Barclaycard Center in Madrid from May 15 to 17, 2015.
It was only the second time in the long history of playoffs that no team had to play all 5 games of the best-of-five series but it doesn’t mean that the matches were easy. Five of the last seven playoff games were decided by the margin of three or lesser points; three games depended on the last shot; one game went to overtime and all four qualifiers were part of such climatic finish. The best performance came from first-time qualifiers Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, who needed overtime in their last match against defending champions, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv in scoring a 75-74 victory. Fenerbahce was also the only team with a 3-0 finish and didn’t have to stretch the play-off series beyond three games.
Exhilaration continued in the series as CSKA Moscow had to endure the 4th round after suffering a one-point loss to Panathinaikos Athens. But the Russian club bounced back two days later in Athens, where they beat Panathinaikos comfortably at 74-55. In the last 13 seasons, CSKA Moscow has made it to the Final Four on 12 occasions.
Real Madrid made their entry into the Final Four for the third year running after a dramatic last-moment one-point loss in Round-3 against Anadolu Efes Istanbul. That required them to play one more round, in which they easily defeated the Efes 76-63. Madrid, however, is yet to win the Euro-league final this century.
But the most dramatic ending came in the contests between Olympiacos Piraeus and FC Barcelona. The Spaniards were favorites and they won the first round at home 73-57 but lost the second 63-76. The next two games were fought neck to neck and Olympiacos turned the tables on Barcelona with close finishes to make their entry into the Final Four.
After hundreds of games played over the last several months beginning with the qualifying rounds in September 2014, this season’s Turkish Airlines Sponsored Euro-league Basketball competition is finally culminating into its last and the most exciting phase. From the Final Four of Milan 2014, Maccabi Electra and FC Barcelona are the two teams missing. In Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, there is new entrant to the Final Four but the Turkish Club has proved its worth as it progressed through the tournament. All four teams now go to Madrid, where the two semifinals will be played on May 15, 2015. In the first, CSKA Moscow will take on Olympiacos Piraeus and three hours later, Real Madrid will play against Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul. The losing semifinalists will play for the third place on May 17, 2015 just before the championship match on the same day. A large worldwide community of basketball fans just cannot wait!
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