From April 15 to 25, 2014, 17 play-off games were held in Milan, Madrid, Moscow, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Athens. The Final Four, which will now travel to Milan for the last four games of 2014 Turkish Airlines Euro-League Basketball are; FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Electra. In the season’s most engrossing play-off game, Real Madrid denied back-to-back champion Olympiacos Piraeus a chance of lifting the trophy for the third year running. Now just four matches remain in Europe’s most spectacular basketball show in Milan, beginning with the first semifinal on May 16 between CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Electra. To most fans, this match will be reminiscent of the two title games played in 2006 and 2008 between these two sides. The second semifinal on May 16 will be a showdown between arch-rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. On May 17, losing semifinalists will play for third place and the curtain will come down with the championship match on May 18. Here is a brief account of the best of five play-off games, played on 2-2-1 format, meaning 2 home games to be followed by 2 away games and the last one on venues, where the first matches were played.
FC Barcelona Vs Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul: The first play-off between Barca and Galatasaray didn’t require 5 games as Barca won both home games at Barcelona and the first away game in Istanbul to become the first team to reach semifinal. On April 15, Barca beat Galatasaray 88-61, after trailing throughout the first half. In fact, Galatasaray raced away to a 9-0 lead with Aldemir, Arroyo and Hairston scored quickly. Barca got their first points after nearly two and a half minutes. Galatasaray led 21-14 in first quarter and despite improving their game, Barca, still trailed at half time. At the stroke of half time, Arroyo left the match after hurting his ankle and his absence set the visitors back. For Barca, Nachbar and Oleson scored constantly in the third and fourth quarters to ensure a 88-61 win for the hosts. On April 17’s second round, Oleson and Abrines jointly scored 27 points from immaculate shooting and Huertas and Tomic added 23 more and the round ended with 84-63 victory for Barcelona. For round 3 on April 20, the scene shifted to the Abdi Ipekci Arena at Istanbul. In a hard-fought battle, both teams played superbly. Arroyo had come back and he along with Zoran Erceg and Milan Macvan brought Galatasaray to the verge of victory. But Huertas, Dorsey and Oleson came with timely performance to help Barca score a narrow 78-75 victory and the ticket to the semifinals.
Real Madrid Vs Olympiacos Piraeus: This match was stretched to the full five rounds, before Real denied 2012 and 2013 champions their third successive Final Four ticket. Real won the first two rounds on April 15 and 17 at Madrid with scores of 88-71 and 82-77. In Round one, Real created an early 17-2 lead and finished ahead of Olympiacos in first quarter. But Olympiacos raised their game by equaling the score 40-40, helped by scores from Shermadini, Spanoulis and Simmons. However, Reals’ Sergio Rodriguez, Nikola Mirotic, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez played brilliantly to finish the first round 88-71. Next round on April 17 was tougher for Real, though they led 53-44 at halftime. Olympiacos, however, responded with Brent Petway and Vassilis Spanoulis, putting their team ahead 55-52, early in third quarter. But Real’s known stars Lojeski, Fernandez and Bourousis played spiritedly to finish with 82-77 in the end. Real Madrid travelled to Athens for third and fourth rounds with a 2-0 lead. In the third round in Athens, both teams played marvelously with Real showing great spirits in dying moments but the hosts took the game away from Real 78-76 in an absolute cliff-hanger. With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter Real still led 74-73 but Georgios Printezis came up with a late surge to tip the balance in favor of Olympiacos. In the fourth round on April 23, Olympiacos easily beat Real Madrid 71-62 and leveled the score 2-2. Therefore, the final round at Madrid on April 25 became crucial. In the decisive round, Real knocked out Olympiacos 83-69 and made its sixth Final Four entry with the third in four years. The fifth round victory was mostly attributable to Sergio Llull’s 20 points but Felipe Reyes and Rudy Fernandez also chipped in with 15 points each. For Olympiacos, it was once again Vassilis Spanoulis, who scored 19 points and Lojeski added another 15. Real kept an upper hand all through and ended with a 3-2 victory.
CSKA Moscow Vs Panathinaikos Athens: This was another playoff game, in which the Russian and Greek teams were fully stretched until Moscow emerged 3-2 winner after round no.5. The contest began in Moscow on April 16 and in a closely-fought first round encounter, CSKA prevailed 77-74 after trailing 62-67, three minutes from full-time, when the two sides were locked at 72-72. In extra time, CSKA scored 2 and Athens went scoreless. On April 18, CSKA won 77-51, helped by Sonny Weems’ 23 points, Vladimir Micov’s 12, Nenad Krstic’s 10. Victor Khryapa finished with 11 rebounds and defended brilliantly. Third round was played on April 21 at Athens and the hosts beat CSKA 65-59 to stay alive in the competition. Legendary Dimitris Diamantidis made Euroleague’s career assists record of 978 by going past Theo Papaloukas’s 977. All Athens stars contributed in the victory. Though, CSKA’s Sonny Weems and Vitaly Fridzon scored 14 and 10 points, it was not enough in the end. The fourth round of April 23 was a fantastic contest, which the host narrowly stole from CSKA 73-72. Stars on both sides displayed their scoring abilities but the Greeks forced the decider, which was played in Moscow on April 25, CSKA scored an emphatic 74-44 victory, led by Sasha Kaun and Victor Khryapa. The 30-point defeat margin was the worst ever for Panathinaikos, with which they gifted CSKA the semifinal berth.
EA7 Emporio Armani Vs Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv: In an amazing first round game between these two sides on April 16, Maccabi Electra came back from the brink to stun the hosts 101-99 in overtime. Not often one sees a side emerge victorious after being down by 13 points in the fourth quarter. The hosts led in double digit in the entire second half but Ricky Hickman and Tyrese Rice rallied Maccabi in closing stages and almost won the game, before a point from Milan forced overtime. In the second round on April 18, Milan led from start to finish and took their revenge of the first-round loss by beating Maccabi 91-77. Hackett, Kangur and Jerrells scored for the hosts, while Tyus, Blu and Rice chipped in for Maccabi. In Tel Aviv’s third round on April 21, Maccabi Electra won 75-63 with Blu, Hickman and Smith performing creditably. The fourth round on April 23 proved to be nail in the coffin for Milan with Maccabi Electra scoring a spectacular 86-66 victory to earn their place in semifinals with useful scores from Hickman, Tyus, Smith, Blu and Schortsanitis. Though Keith Langford led Milan with 28 points, it was not enough in the end.