Just as Monday’s two matches, the remaining two played on Tuesday April 21, 2015 were equally thrilling encounters with narrow victory margins for the winners. Both Spanish sides lost their road games with FC Barcelona suffering second consecutive defeat in Olympiacos Piraeus’ home ground at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. Real Madrid also lost their road game against Anadolu Efes at Istanbul. The results have thrown a lot of uncertainty for Barcelona because they would require victories in the remaining two rounds, assuming Olympiacos Piraeus do not beat them in the fourth round. For Madrid, there are two more chances to enter the Final-Four. But the last four matches of the play-offs have really kept fans guessing until the very end as every single contest went to the wire.
Real Madrid played their third-round match against Efes at Abdi Ipekci Arena. Both teams had made changes in their starting line-ups. Jaycee Carroll came first time in play-off series for Madrid and Birkan Batuk also made first-time start Efes, though he used to come off the bench earlier. These changes paid off immediately as Batuk scored the first points as the first quarter began. Real opened their account through Felipe Reyes but Lasme nullified the advantage. Rudy Fernandez’s triple took Madrid ahead narrowly and despite Gustavo Ayon and Saric trading baskets; another triple from Rudy made it 10-6 for Real Madrid. Early substitutions from both sides brought the game on the edge but Madrid kept the lead and finished the quarter at 20-15. Efes dominated the second quarter with Stratos Perperoglou scoring a triple and Matt Janning scoring from a jumper. Saric put Efes in front with a three-pointer but Rudy tied the game again with his free throws. As second quarter was drawing to a close, Osman stole the show and took Efes ahead. The host took the second quarter at 17-10 with a halftime lead of 32-20.
In third quarter, Rudy’s efforts brought the scores level and a three by Carroll put Real ahead. But Efes took command again as Heurtel sank 3 free throws, Krstic added a long jumper and Janning’s triple opened a 6-point advantage. Frenetic scoring from either side ended the third quarter in Efes’ favor 24-16 with an overall lead of 56-46. Efes began the last quarter with a triple but Madrid fought hard as Rodriguez scored a few baskets. Forcing a steal, Rodriguez turned into a layup-plus-foul to make it 8 straight individual points. For Efes, Heurtel drained a big three but Reyes countered. With 5 minutes left, Efes led 62-56. Suddenly, Rodriguez scored a triple to bring a hush in the stadium. Though Saric and Krstic combined for a dunk, Rodriguez hit a jumper at the other end. Then Krstic made 2 free throws to make it 66-61. With hardly 2 minutes remaining, Rodriguez and Llull made it a 3-point game. Llull brought the score to 68-67 with a layup with 27 seconds left. With a number of free throws, the scores were tied with less than 8 second remaining. However the issue was settled with Efes racing down the floor and Janning scoring a three at the buzzer.
In the match between Olympiacos Piraeus and FC Barcelona, Spanoulis put Olympiacos ahead but Tomas Satoransky came up a three-pointer for Barcelona. For hosts, Bryant Dunston stepped up with a power basket but Ante Tomic hit a one-handed floater. FCB had a small 5-4 lead but Olympiacos raced ahead soon with fantastic play from Tremmell Darden, Spanoulis Vassilis and Georgios Printezis. For FCB, DeShaun Thomas scored around the basket but free throws by Vangelis Mantzaris put Olympiacos ahead 13-10. In a frantic exchange, Lampe scored from a five-meter jumper and erased Matt Lojeski’s fast break with another mid-range shot. Ante Tomic scored to take Barcelona back into the lead at 16-15. Olympiacos exerted pressure to take a first quarter lead of 26-23. Olympiacos continued with the momentum in the next quarter as Oliver Lafayette and Kostas Sloukas combined well. Sloukas found Printezis for a backdoor layup and Othello Hunter scored down low to make it a 5-point game. For Barcelona, Tibor Pleiss scored from a jumper but Printezis came up with a triple. Towards the end, FCB’s stars played with gusto and leveled the score at 36-36. Soon after, Spanoulis split foul shots and a driving layup by Sloukas gave Olympiacos another lead as they finished 44-36 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the game became a bit slow with neither side able to score freely. But soon, when Printezis hit a baseline jumper, Doellman stepped up with a catch-and-shoot three-pointer and Lafayette brought up a reverse layup. After Oleson hit a six-meter jumper, Dunston and Doellman exchanged free throws. An out-of-the-world off-balance triple by Spanoulis gave Olympiacos a 53-48 margin. But Barcelona snatched back the lead from Navarro’s free throws and smart moves by Tomic and Lampe. At the end of the third quarter, FCB led 60-59. In the last session of play, Hunter began with attack from Olympiacos and with Barcelona committing 3 team-fouls in two minutes, they lost their lead. Printezis scored from a three-pointer to lift the hosts out of trouble. Then Mantzaris and Hunter combined to make it 66-60. There was no score from FCB for 7 minutes but a free throw from Tomic made it 66-61. With three minutes left, the pace of the game quickened. Printezis then scored from free throws and soon added an alley-oop slam that literally sealed the outcome. Satoransky and Navarro also made free throws but FCB couldn’t get back into the game and lost the third round 71-73.
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