Euroleague Playoffs enter decisive fifth game

EuroleagueAfter Barcelona swept Galatasaray for a 3-0 series win, there were just three tied fixtures as Game 4 got underway in the Euroleague Playoffs. The Spanish club qualified early and has now been joined in the season ending showpiece by Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv. The former winners came through their own showdown against EA7 Milan on Wednesday to win the best of five series 3-1.

Barcelona’s and Tel-Aviv’s progress means the remaining two series’ will go to the wire in a fifth and decisive game. Four of the continents biggest clubs are squaring off to find the path to the Euroleague Final Four in Milan. Once again the Greek juggernauts Olympiacos and Panathinaikos have shown they cannot be underestimated, while the looming presence of Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow still faces them.

It was a night for home teams as each host club picked up vital wins.

Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv vs. EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, 86-66
Electra Tel-Aviv has blown hot and cold throughout this Euroleague campaign, but the Israeli giant clicked on Wednesday in Game 4 of its five games series against Italian club Milan. The hosts turned it on in front of a vibrant home crowd to win the game emphatically with the score at 86-66 after 40 minutes. Tel-Aviv has coped well with a Milan team that looked good throughout the Top 16, and Electra’s away win in Game 1 proved to be pivotal in taking the series 3-1.

A sold out Nokia Arena in Tel-Aviv was treated to a commanding late display from the former Euroleague winners. Italian outfit Milan looked to be on the way to tying the series at 2-2 when the visitors led 54-56 after three frames. EA7 was paced for thirty minutes by a game high haul of 28 points from Keith Langford. However, in the fourth quarter Tel-Aviv exploded after an 11-2 run gave the team the lead for good. From there the hosts pulled away and blitzed Milan down the stretch for a finale that will live long in the memory.

Tel-Aviv now enters the Final Four for the 12th time and the first time since 2011.

Olympiacos vs. Real Madrid, 71-62
Current two time Euroleague champs Olympiacos proved again that the club should never be underestimated by downing Real Madrid for the second successive game. The Spanish giant won the first two games in the series against Olympiacos in Madrid, but the Greek team has responded perfectly at home to tie the series at 2-2 to send the best of five games into a sure to be dramatic decider.

The hosts had been tracked by Madrid throughout the game, and after thirty minutes of play the game was locked at 49 each. At that point Los Blancos could probably sense the chance of beating and eliminating current champions Olympiacos from the competition. However, it was The Reds who found the extra legs in the fourth quarter, with Bryant Dunston securing six consecutive points to give the home team the lead for good.

Madrid has been utterly dominant at certain points this season, but recent games have shown the Spanish team can be beaten, while this series has revealed the Olympiacos will defend its title to the last.

Panathinaikos Athens vs. CSKA Moscow, 73-72
This thrilling encounter in the Greek capital ended with Panathinaikos emerging victorious by a solitary point to keeps its Final Four ambitions alive. The result for the Greeks means they send Russian powerhouse CSKA into a fifth and decisive game, where these two former Euroleague champions will fight it out once more.

Although it was Moscow that registered first, it was Panathinaikos that secured the best plays of the first quarter and emerged with a 21-16 lead after 10 minutes. In the second period CSKA started to find rhythm and net to reel in the deficit and even carve out a slight 37-38 lead as the halftime buzzer sounded around the Olympic Sports Center. Panathinaikos needed to win the game to stay in the competition and in the third frame The Greens secured a 9-0 run and went on to lead 51-48 after half hour. In the fourth stanza the hosts pressed further and held a nine point lead with just minutes on the clock. However, CSKA showed its championship quality by coming back to send the game to overtime. During the extra frame and inside a nervy arena, Panathinaikos managed to claim the win, but had to go to the wire and the buzzer to secure it.

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