Top16 super performer Fenerbahce Istanbul is just one win away from making it to the Final Four with their thumping victory over defending champions Real Madrid in Thursday’s second playoff game. Two other teams, CSKA Moscow and Laboral Kutxa Vitoria also recorded their second successive wins and inched tantalizing close to making the trip to Berlin for the coveted Final Four of the Turkish Airlines Euro-League basketball. The fourth game between hosts Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and FC Barcelona Lassa went in favor of the Spanish outfit with Barcelona recording a the largest playoff victory for a visiting team in more than a decade. With Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Laboral having established a 2-0 lead in the playoff series, the third game itself could produce some Final Four qualifiers, whereas Lokomotiv and Barcelona need to play a minimum of two games more.
In Istanbul’s Ulker Sports Arena, Fenerbahce played dominating basketball from start to the final buzzer and handed a 100-78 thrashing to the 2015 Euro-League champions Real Madrid. After a semblance of a fight in first quarter, Madrid literally threw in the towel against the marauding Fenerbahce. Towards the end of first quarter, Fenerbahce began a 10-0 run and began the second with a 16-3 advantage. Ekpe Udoh was the lead performer for Fenerbahce scoring 18 points, Nikola Kalinic added 17 and Bogdan Bogdanovic came up with 16 points. Real Madrid never looked like threatening Fenerbahce and suffered their worst playoff defeat ever. With this loss, Madrid is already pushed into a corner and need to win the next three games against an opponent, who has excelled throughout this season.
The second game on April 14 between hosts CSKA Moscow and Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade proved to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller and ended at 77-76 in CSKA’s favor. The Russian Club is on the verge of recording its 13th Final Four entry in 14 years since Euro-league Basketball adopted the Final Four model. But Thursday’s win for CSKA didn’t come on a platter. Zvezda pushed Moscow in the first quarter and led 48-44 at halftime, thanks to excellent performances by Stefan Jovic in first quarter and Marko Simonovic in the second. However, CSKA hit back through Milos Teodosic, Cory Higgins Kyle Hines, Aaron Jackson and Nando De Colo and went 69-62 ahead in the fourth quarter. But Jovic scored from a pair of triples with less than two minutes remaining and Zvezda regained the lead. The decisive difference was made by a three-pointer from Teodosic with 65 second left in the match. Hines scored 19 points while Cory Higgins and Nando De Colo scored 13 apiece. For Zvezda, Jovic finished with 15 points and 7 assists.
In another thrilling game on Friday, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria scraped through with an 82-78 victory against Panathinaikos Athens. The game ended as drawn after regulation time and was decided in overtime. Laboral didn’t have the services of some of their key players, including ace defender Adam Hanga who was hurt in Game 1. Regardless, Laboral still produced a fighting performance and led by 10 points early in fourth quarter. All of sudden, the charged up Panathinaikos squared the score from a three by Dimitris Diamantidis as the buzzer went off. In overtime, the two teams fought in the same vein but unfortunately for Panathinaikos, Miroslav Raduljica missed a shot with 10 seconds left and Laboral’s Darius Adams iced the game from the line for his team. Adams finished with 24 points for Laboral while Diamantidis top-scored for Panathinaikos with 17 points and 6 assists.
In the only other playoff series game on Friday, Barcelona Lassa held off Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 92-66 and squared up the series score to 1-1. For Juan Carlos Navarro of Barcelona, it was a red-letter day as he created history by appearing in his 300th game in Euro-league. Very aptly, Navarro celebrated the event by scoring 18 points in Barcelona’s crushing victory over Lokomotiv. In over a decade’s time, it was the biggest victory margin for a visiting team in playoff games. Locomotive began well and led by a solitary point late in the first quarter before Barcelona reversed the trend and established a 17-point halftime lead. The visitors never looked back with Navarro and his teammates running amuck and sealed the game’s fate in favor of Barcelona. Next to Navarro’s 18 points, Tomas Satoransky tallied 13 with 10 assists.
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