Euro-league BasketballAt the end of last week, three teams had 2-0 lead after their second round matches. Real Madrid joined CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul and all three teams are now poised for the entry to the Final-Four as they head for their third round games on road. Real Madrid scored a thrilling 90-85 win over Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Friday night at home. However, FC Barcelona had to rest content with a 1-1 finish as they lost the repeat game at home turf against Olympiacos Piraeus 63-76. Therefore, one play-off series would require at least 4 games, while some teams could reach the Final-Four earlier.

Real Madrid had a very tough game against Anadolu Efes on Friday, when they trailed by 17 points in the third quarter and with less than 2½ minutes left for the match; they were still down by 7 points. But in the last moments, it was Sergio Llull, who made the decisive difference with 11 points in the last three minutes, including 7 free throws in the last 7 seconds. That superb performance sealed the victory for Real. Llull finished with a total of 18 points for Real Madrid and supplemented that with 12 assists, highest ever in his career. In a highly entertaining contest that was peppered with numerous runs from both sides, Real Madrid began in a stunning way by taking an early 9-0 lead. But the opening charge of the hosts was nullified by Anadolu Efes, who mounted a terrific assault soon after. Though Real led the first quarter 22-16, Efes turned the tables in the second to reverse that by winning at 29-15 and led 45-37 at halftime. Efes continued the momentum in the third quarter and raised their lead to 17 before Real Madrid fought back to reduce the lead to 3 points by taking the quarter score to 26-21. The teams entered the eventful fourth quarter with Efes having a 66-63 advantage. The exchange continued at breakneck speed and the score reached 82-75 in Efes favor with a little over 2 minutes left in the game. In the frantic last minutes, Madrid scored the next 11 points to take control with Rodriguez icing the game from the line. Following Llull’s 18, Rudy Fernandez added 15 points with 7 assists. Efes playmaker Thomas Heurtel played brilliantly and scored 16 points and set a Euro-league playoffs record with 15 assists breaking the previous mark of 13, set by Theo Papaloukas for Olympiacos against Real Madrid in 2009. Nenad Krstic added 23 for Efes.

At Barcelona, the hosts FCB couldn’t continue with their winning streak and lost to Olympiacos Piraeus 63-76. It was Olympiacos’ first ever victory in Barcelona. Olympiacos started strongly and led 15-10 in the first quarter. They continued the momentum in the second quarter and enhanced the lead by 10 points for a 35-25 halftime score that was made possible by three-pointers from Spanoulis and Oliver Lafayette. After some fight-back by FCB in the third quarter, there were more three-pointers in the fourth, and Olympiacos always looked like emerging victorious. For Olympiacos Piraeus, Georgios Printezis recorded one of his best games of the career to finish with 22 points. Printezis missed 3 shots and came up with 9 rebounds. Vassilis Spanoulis added 16 and 5 assists. The strong defense by Olympiacos came in the way of FC Barcelona, who finished with 63, their lowest score ever in the Euroleague Playoffs. For FCB, Juan Carlos Navarro scored 16 points while Ante Tomic tallied 14 with 14 rebounds. FCB will need to come up with an improved performance in the away-game at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, Athens on April 21, 2015.