In two entirely contrasting semifinal games played on Friday night, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv and Real Madrid won their games and came on course to meet each other in the grand finale on Sunday, May 18, 2014. While the first match between Maccabi Electra and CSKA Moscow was full of thrills, the second between Real Madrid and Barcelona ended in an easy victory for Real. With just two matches remaining in the Turkish Airlines Euro-league Basketball, curtain would come down on the nearly eight-month long Euro-league season.
In the first semifinal between Maccabi and CSKA at Milan’s Mediolanum Forum, it looked like CSKA’s game for most time, until Maccabi fought back from the brink with few second remaining in the fourth quarter to defeat CSKA 68-67 in a nail-biting finish. The Muscovites dominated the first quarter through Sasha Kaun, Andrey Vorontsevich, Victor Khryapa and Sonny Weems. Despite attempts from Maccabi’s Ricky Hickman Aley Tyus and Tyrese Rice, CSKA led 19-16. In second quarter, CSKA continued with its good performance, although Maccabi’s Aaron Jackson’s smart put-back started things for his team. But CSKA kept up the pressure through a Khryapa dunk and a Milos Teodosic’s baseline jumper to build a 31-25 lead, which widened to 35-27 after Maccabi’s Schortsanitis indulged in a personal foul. The second quarter ended with CSKA leading 38-30. With the third quarter start, CSKA increased the margin by 10 points, when Weems sent a perfect pass to Kaun’s for a dunk. But Maccabi’s David Blu hit a three-pointer but lay-ups from Micov and Hines made it 44-33 in favor of CSKA. It was a controlling lead for CSKA now but suddenly, Maccabi’s Devin Smith scored a triple and Teodosic and Tyus traded baskets. CSKA’s Fridzon restored the 11-point lead by knocking down a three. CSKA forged further ahead through Krstic and Weems to make it 55-40. However, in the dying minutes of the quarter, Rice and Hickman reduced the margin, though CSKA still had a 55-45 lead. The last quarter brought unexpected thrills with Rice, Blu and Tyus playing superbly for Maccabi and though Kaun made his presence felt, Maccabi cut the margin to 62-57. With less than four minutes remaining, Maccabi prevented CSKA from scoring for three minutes, during which Rice reduced the lead further, even though Krstic found the basket with a minute remaining and CSKA still led 64-61. Sonny Weems came up with free throws but Smith retaliated and reduced the margin to 2 points. But Weems was relentless in making an off-the-dribble jumper from 5 meters to make it 67-63 for CSKA with 19 seconds left. After a Maccabi timeout, scintillating display from Blu’s three-point shot made it 67-66 and in the closing seconds, Blu stole the ball and lobbed it to Rice, who finished a great 68-67 victory for Maccabi.
In the other semifinal, Real Madrid beat arch-rival FC Barcelona 100-62. Barca did pretty well in the first quarter with Marcelinho Huertas putting his team 12-4 ahead at the start with good support from Tomic. But Mirotic and Llull retaliated for Real Madrid, with a jumper each, followed by a dunk from Marcus Slaughter, and a lay-up from Llull to make it 13-12. Barca’s Brad Oleson produced the game’s first three-pointer but Mirotic nullified the advantage by sinking a pair of free throws, and a long jumper to make it 16-16. The dog-fight continued as the first quarter ended at 20-20. In the second, Real’s Reyes put Madrid back in front and some fine defense prevented Barca from scoring for four minutes. Then Sergio Rodrigues made his presence felt by hitting a three-pointer, adding two free throws and providing an assist to Salah Mejri for a dunk. After Barca took a timeout, a bit of three-point firework began. Barcelona’s Navarro was first to strike a triple but Real’s Felipe Reyes did the same and when Papanikolaou scored from long range, Rudy Fernandez responded with a long basket to put Real ahead 37-26. When second quarter ended, Real led 45-37. Third quarter started with Fernandez hitting a three-pointer and after Oleson responded with a long jumper, Tremmell Darden produced a corner triple and Mirotic scored from close range. Barca attacked with Tomic’s basket-plus-free throw and Huertas’s runner but Real’s tall guy Ioannis Bourousis scored from long-range to make it 56-44 in Real’s favor. Pressure from Rodriguez, Bourousis, Fernandez and Mirotic resulted in Real leading the third quarter 73-48. Real made a grand fourth quarter start with a Bourousis layup and triples from Llull and Mirotic. In addition, they did not allow Barca to score for about eight minutes till Joey Dorsey found the basket. With the game almost out of their grasp, Barca’s Alex Abrines and Nachbar scored for their team but it was not enough with time ticking away. Reyes and Marcus Slaughter made further addition to Real Madrid’s tally. With few minutes left, Reyes, Llull and Jaycee Carroll carried Real in the final with a 100-62 victory.
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