Euroleague: and then there were eight…


CSKA’s Milos Teodosic puts up a jumper against the Panathiniakos defense.

Euroleague Week 14 arrived with much enthusiasm and anticipation, with the knowledge that in the eight games to be played in the final Top 16 week, a much expanded Top 16 over previous years, six of the final week’s contests would help to determine how the next round of competition would look. In Group E, the clubs have been known for a few weeks already, but which could would earn the group title, which club would square off against the Group F leader, which club would be heading into the round of eight with their club firing on all cylinders, and which clubs were struggling, would all be determined on Thursday.

In Group F, very little was established with five teams still in the hunt for three open playoff spots. The scenarios were complex and extensive, but the bottom line was that once the six clubs in the group that had a vested interest in the outcome of all the other games stepped on the court, nothing else mattered but how effective they would be during the 40 minutes of playing time they had left in the 2012-13 Euroleague Top 16 competition. Each team had their fate in their own hands, if they won, they moved on, if not, then many had to hope for some help.

In the end, as the final buzzers sounded on the games, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona Regal stood on the top of their respective groups claiming the titles and home-court advantage that they had chased for weeks. Elsewhere in Group E, Real Madrid pounded surprise club of the Top 16, Anadolu Efes, to take the No. 2 spot with Efes falling to the No. 3 spot, while group leader CSKA outlasted Panathiniakos to move the Greens to the No. 4 position as they lose the tie-break with Efes by one point based on their head-to-head competition.

In Group F, what could have had supercomputers working overtime to figure out the final positions, turned out to be fairly easy as all three home teams won their matches and a single tie-break between Maccabi Electra and Caja Laboral was needed to determine which club occupied the No. 3 position and which finished in the No. 4 spot.

Group E Matches:
Panathinaikos Athens – CSKA Moscow, 63:69
CSKA Moscow overcame a three-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and scored the final five points of the game to secure the top spot in Group E and a match-up with Caja Laboral in the quarterfinals with the first game to be held on April 10th in Moscow. Panathinakos ends up in fourth slot after they lose the tie-break with Anadolu Efes based on the club’s splitting their two games and Efes winning the overall score by one. Finishing in the No. 4 spot means that the Greens will play their best of three series in the quarterfinals against FC Barcelona Regal, starting on April 9th in Barcelona.

CSKA got 13 points from Viktor Khryapa, who also contributed 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Sasha Kaun added 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals.

Panathiniakos got a game-high performance out of Michael Bramos, who dropped in 18 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.

After, CKSA skipper, Ettore Messina stated:

“It was a playoff game, very tough and difficult for both teams. It is not easy to win here, but I am happy because we pressed our opponents in defense and played good in offense. We committed a lot of turnovers, but on the other hand we dished 19 assists. I really want to thank my players for their effort and to wish good luck to ourselves and to Panathinaikos. “

Real Madrid – Anadolu Efes, 86:66
Real Madrid locked up the No. 2 spot in the group by manhandling visiting Anadolu Efes, 86:66, and will now square off against Maccabi Electra with their first game to be played April 10, in Madrid. The loss puts Efes in the No. 3 spot, which matched them up with the defending Euroleague Champions, Olympiacos Piraeus. The first game of their best-of-three series will tip off on April 10 in Greece.

The win was Madrid’s first in four weeks, while the loss bumped Efes’ losing streak to three games.

Madrid dominated this contest from tip to buzzer with no questions asked along the way. In the first frame they build an 11-point lead and then extended that in the second quarter to get up by as much as 20. Efes was able to counter after the break and cut the gap to 10, but as the final horn sounded, Madrid had given the crowd of nearly 9,200 friendlies plenty to cheer about.

Sergio Llull was game-high for Madrid with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists. Rudy Fernandez turned in a performance worthy of a PIR of 26 on his 28th birthday, coming from 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. Jaycee Carroll added 14 points, Nikola Mirotic added 11 points, and 7 rebounds, and Marcus Slaughter dropped in 10 points, and grabbed 5 rebounds.

Efes got 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists from Jordan Farmar, and 10 points from Jamon-Alfred Lucas. Kerem Gonlum contributed 8 points and 9 rebounds.

Rudy Fernandez was quoted after:

“We had one of out best defensive games this season. If we had to play well one game this season, it had to be this time – and we did it. Efes had a strong start after the break but after a timeout we have managed to do what we know we can do. Maccabi is a regular team at this level. It is very important to have the home court advantage, it is a certain privilege in this series. I want to request the people in Madrid to come to see us in the playoffs. In games like this, it is easier to win with a good atmosphere. It was a special day for me, personally, as it was my birthday!”

Unicaja Malaga – Alba Berlin, 55:68
In a contest that had no significance to the playoffs, Alba Berlin got out to an early lead in the first quarter and never gave it up en route to 55:68 road win over Unicaja Maaga. Unicaja ended up finishing in fifth place in Group E with a 7-7 record, while Alba crossed the line in 7th at 4-10.

The guests were led by Jekel Foster’s 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Derrick Byars added 12 points, and 5 rebounds.

Unicaja got 12 from both Txemi Urtasun and Luka Zoric.

Zalgiris Kaunas – Brose Baskets, 90:81
Zalgiris Kaunas finished up their Top 16 competition with a solid win over the eighth place club in the group, Brose Baskets, 90:81. Brose finishes the Top 16 round 0-14, Zalgiris finished at 6-8, three slots out of the playoffs.

Zalgiris got 20 points out of Ksistof Lavrinovic, who also snagged 8 rebounds on the contest. Mindaugas Kuzminskas contributed 13 points and 9 rebounds, and the duo of Marko Popovic and Rimantas Kaukenas tallied 12 each.

Anton Gavel paced Brose with 20 points, while Bostjan Nachbar and Casey Jacobsen sank 14 points each. Andrew James Ogilvy knocked down 13 points and Sharrod Ford contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Group F Matches
Olympiacos Piraeus – BC Khimki MR, 79:70
After 14 weeks and some amazing battles, it’s hard to believe that one of these to competitors are heading home after being eliminated, but that’s the fate of BC Khimki MR after falling 79:70 to the defending champion Olympiacos.

It helps when you’ve got a guy standing outside the arc draining everything he tosses up, as Khimki found was the case with the Reds’ Kostas Papanikolaou, who connected on 6 of 6 from the suburbs. When Papanikolaou wasn’t letting the long-ball fly, he was in the paint hauling in errant shots, to the tune of 12 rebounds on the night. When all was said and done, he earned himself a PIR of 37, nearly double his previous Euroleague season high performance against Siena three weeks ago.

In potential shifts in the standings of five clubs were all impacted by this one contest as a win by Olympiacos kept them a game ahead of everyone, but a loss would mean firing up the supercomputers to figure out which club would go were. As it turns out, the Reds will now face Anadolu Efes in a best-of-three series that begins on April 10 in Piraeus. Unfortunately for Khimki, they are left out of the playoffs, finishing one game behind the No. 4 club Caja Laboral.

The home club got out of an early deficit with an 8:0 run that gave them a 22:20 advantage after one. In the second the Reds pressed forward and pushed their lead to as much as 15, but going into the break up 7, 45:38. The guests chipped away at the deficit, but Papanikolaou sliced the cords with back-to-back triples, firing up the 8,000 in attendance. Khimki continued to rally, ultimately knotting up the score at 56 off a Zoran Planinic lay-up. At the end of the third 10 Papanikolaou had drained another three-ball to give Olympiacos a three-point lead, 60:57. Triples number five and six came in the fourth from Papanikolaou, but the big shot was number six which ended up with him getting fouled and connecting on the single to finish off the four-point play and give the hosts a 71:61 lead with four minutes left. From there, Khimki never recovered and never cut their deficit to less than seven.

Papanikolaou was game-high with a 21/12 double/double for the Reds. Vassilis Spanoulis knocked down 15 while dishing off 5 assists on the night. Acie Law, IV, contributed 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists.

Khimki got 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists from James Augustine; 13 points and 6 assists from Paul Davis; and 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists from Planinic.

Afterwards, Papanikolaou summed it up nicely:

“It’s great. Making the playoffs was our goal for this season and we are very happy. We played a great game; a great defensive game and a great offensive game. I am very happy that I helped my team win. It is all about teamwork. What counts and what matters is what the team does at the end of the season. “

FC Barcelona Regal – Maccabi Electra, 74:71
FC Barcelona Regal has been the top club for the entire Top 16 competition, only losing one game against Khimki in Week 2, which means that with their 74:71 win over Maccabi Electra, Regal ends with a 12-game winning streak. Even more impressive is their overall Euroleague results as they finished the regular season 9-1, losing to CSKA Moscow in Week 10. Putting the two rounds together the opened with a nine-game winning streak, lost in Week 10, opened the Top 16 with a win, then lost to Khimki, and then finishing off winning 12 straight.

The win pits Regal against Panathianicos with their best of three series starting on April 9. The lost drops Maccabi Electra the No. 3 spot in the group and set to face Real Madrid starting April 10.

The first quarter opened with Maccabi getting the upper hand and building a 5:12 lead, only to have Barça counter with eight unanswered to give them a 13:12 lead. For the rest of the first 10 they traded baskets and the lead before settling in to a 19-all tie as the horn sounds. In the second, the hosts got a glimpse of what was to come later on in the contest, as 19 yr-old Alejandro Abrines got his career-high contest started with an early three in the second quarter and finished the second 10 with 7 of his game-high 21. Regal built an eight-point lead mid-way through the quarter, then gave up four straight to cut the lead to four, which is where the quarter ended, a four-point Barça lead, 36:32 at the break.

Maccabi owned the third frame, outscoring Regal 15:24 and finishing off the 30th minute up 51:56. Ricky Hickman put the club on his shoulders and carried them through the third and right into the lead. Early in the frame he dropped in six unanswered of his own to take the lead, 39:41. Deep in the quarter Electra ran off another six unanswered and a pair of Guy Pnini charity tosses gave Electra a 51:56 lead with 10 minutes left to play.

Abrines knocked down 12 of his 21 in the fourth quarter, helping hosts regain the lead and stay in front. Barcelona had a 72:67 lead with just over a minute to play. Devin Smith, the Euroleague player of the month for March, hit a lay-up to cut the gap to three and Hickman connected on a pair of singles to pull to within 1, 72:71. Sarunas Jasikevicius was fouled for Regal and dropped in two free throws to get the lead back to three, 74:71. Maccabi had the time for a final play, but Smith couldn’t get the handle on the ball and it ended up back in the hosts hands to secure the win.

Abrines was game-high with 21 points and a PIR of 28. Ante Tomic contributed 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Juan Carlos Navarro tallied 12 points in the win.

Smith (7 rebounds) and Hickman dropped in 16 each for Electra. David Logan hit 11 points, Shawn James added 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.

Caja Laboral Vitoria – Montepaschi Siena, 76:64
Caja Laboral snuck into the Top 16 after a 4-6 regular season by winning their last three games. They then opened Top 16 play with a four game win steak over Olympiacos, Maccabi, Besktas and Fenerbahce. At that point it looked like the club from Vitoria, Spain was headed for Top 16 greatness, until they fell on hard times and took a five game skid. They got themselves in the thick of things with wins in three of the last four weeks and were in a must-win situation with Siena in Week 14. A win and they had got in of Olympiacos won, but if Olympiacos lost, they fell into a series of tie-break scenarios that were determined by the amount that the Reds lost by.

The bottom line for Caja Laboral as they hit the hardwood on Thursday was that they had to take matters into their own hands, win the game and hope that they got some help in the other game.

Sometimes things work out as planned and for Caja they did, for Siena, not so much as the Spanish rivals squared off in Vitoria for their Week 14 finale, with the hosts winning big, 76:64. With the Olympiacos victory over Khimki it sends Caja into the No. 4 spot in Group E and the club with a combine 12-12 record will now suit up against CSKA Moscow in their best of three series in the Euroleague quarterfinals starting on April 10 in Moscow.

The hosts got out to a 15:11 lead after the first quarter, then took a 12-point margin into the break, 39:27. After the third frame Caja was up 15. Siena was able to slice a few points off the deficit in the fourth, but still found themselves down 12 at the final buzzer, 76:64, ending their 2012-13 Euroleague season with a five-game losing streak, after opening the Top 16 competition with a five game winning streak.

Maciej Lampe was game-high for Caja with 27 points, 9 rebounds, and a PIR of 30. Andres Nocioni and Fernando San Emeterio each added 13 points, while Nocioni also grabbed 13 rebounds.

Bobby Brown tallied 24 points, while picking up 3 rebounds and dishing off 6 assists.

Euroleague Group E – Final Standings

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Euroleague Group F – Final Standings

This Week’s Matches[matches league_id=20 match_day=14 group=F template=summary dateformat=”M. j, Y”]

Standings[standings league_id=20 group=F show_website=false template=nolink]

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