The playoff scenario in Turkish Airlines Euro-League basketball clearly emerged after four Group F games on April 7. The remaining two spots went to FC Barcelona Lassa and defending champions Real Madrid. In a do-or-die game, Real Madrid got past Khimki Moscow and with Barcelona Lassa having already defeated Zalgiri Kaunas, playoff chances of Olympiacos Piraeus and Brose Baskets Bamberg evaporated in thin air. It also proved how the Group F turned out to be one of death in sharp contrast to Group E, where playoff contestants were more predictable. In the best-of-five playoff matches beginning on April 12, Fenerbahce Istanbul will play Real Madrid; Laboral Kutxa Vitoria take on Panathinaikos Athens; CSKA Moscow face Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade and Barcelona Lassa square up with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. The series winners will proceed to Berlin for two semifinals and the championship game during May 13-15, 2016. A brief account of Top-16’s final round is as follows.
Since all 4 playoff contestants were already decided, the only thing of interest remained the placements of teams. With Fenerbahce Istanbul having already been confirmed as unchallenged leader, Panathinaikos Athens hoped to take the second spot by winning their game against already eliminated Anadolu Efes Istanbul. However, as it turned out, Anadolu used home advantage in edging out Panathinaikos 91-86 in a close encounter. Panathinaikos made a fine start with 6 players combining to score 9 times from 10 three-pointers and led 58-45 early in third quarter. But Anadolu’s Dario Saric and Thomas Heurtel began a 10-0 run that turned the tables on Panathinaikos. Saric finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks while 5 other Anadolu players notched by double-digit scores.
Panathinaikos’ defeat puts them at third place behind Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, who maintained their second place despite an 86-87 loss against Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul. In a thrilling game, Darussafaka trailed in the first three quarters but rallied marvelously in the fourth to make the game a nail biter. Furkan Aldemir, Scottie Wilbekin and Luke Harangody scored key baskets for Darussafaka at crunch time to lead their team to a consolation win.
Another eliminated team defeated a qualified team in Group E, when Cedevita Zagreb thrashed Crvena Zvezda Telekom 83-62. This was the second time that Cedevita had defeated a playoff bound team after they humiliated table-toppers Fenerbahce by a 30-point margin two weeks ago.
In the last Round-14 game in the Group, Unicaja Malaga handed Fenerbahce their third Top16 defeat by winning their home game 71-67. Unicaja led from start and created a 10-point lead as the third quarter ended. Having already qualified, Fenerbahce either rested their top players or used them for limited minutes. Regardless, Fenerbahce rallied to within 4 points in fourth quarter before losing the game.
Thursday’s first game decided the playoff fates of three teams straightaway. Barcelona Lassa defeated Zalgiris Kaunas 66-59 on road and ensured the third spot in the group. Barcelona’s win also eliminated Olympiacos Piraeus and Brose Baskets Bamberg from playoff contention. It wasn’t, however, an easy game for Barcelona, who trailed 28-34 at halftime. In the third quarter, Pau Ribas scored thrice from distance and Barcelona established a narrow 49-48 lead. The visitors kept up the pressure and improved their defense in the remaining time to scrape through with a narrow victory. Pau Ribas top-scored for Barcelona with 14 points, Joey Dorsey added 12 with 13 rebounds and Juan Carlos Navarro had 10.
Since Barcelona’s win eliminated Olympiacos Piraeus and Brose Baskets, the game between Real Madrid and Khimki Moscow Region became a do-or-die battle for the fourth place in the Group. Finally, it was Madrid, who went through with a 83-70 win that caused elimination for Khimki. Madrid played much better than in their earlier games and put pressure on the visitors in every quarter except the second when both teams scored 21 points each. Khimki’s Tyrese Rice was outstanding and scored 22 of his 24 points before halftime but Madrid responded well through Jaycee Carroll, Felipe Reyes and Sergio Llull. Carroll top-scored 23 points and Reyes added 18.
Brose Baskets Bamberg’s 89-69 victory over play-off bound Laboral Kutxa had no effect on their eliminated status. But they still had the consolation of finishing the Top16 in some style in front of home fans. Bamberg began with a 15-0 first-quarter run and led 45-28 at halftime. Despite trying hard, Laboral couldn’t get close enough except cutting the margin somewhat. For Brose, Daniel Theis scored 21 points and Darius Miller added another 19. The loss for Laboral also meant that they would take the second place behind CSKA Moscow.
In a thrilling last Group F game, CSKA Moscow defeated Olympiacos Athens 99-96 on road and earned the honor of topping the Group. CSKA led for most of the first half, but the hosts bounced back to reverse the trend and took the lead in third quarter. However, CSKA’s Milos Teodosic and Aaron Jackson stepped up in the last quarter before Nando De Colo came up with 12 points in the final three minutes to seal victory for CSKA. De Colo top-scored with 20 points, while Teodosic and Jackson added 13 each.
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