Montepaschi - Olympiakos 88-76
Montepaschi registered three straight wins against Olympiakos to book a ticket for the Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona. The Italian powerhouse failed in the first meeting and it was their worst performance this season, but they forgot it quickly and finally eliminated Olympiakos with almost perfect 3-1. Montepaschi will meet Panathinaikos in the Semis. Malik Hairston (198-G-87, college: Oregon) was a key player for the hosts with 25 points and 7 rebounds. Ksistof Lavrinovic (210-C-79) had 19 points and Marko Jaric (198-G-78) added 12, while Shaun Stonerook (203-F/C-77, college: Ohio) helped with 10 points and 5 boards. In the loosing squad, Ioannis Bourousis (212-C-83, agency: FCM) (5 rebs) and Gordon Jamon Lukas (191-G-84, agency: Edge Sports, college: Virginia Tech) delivered 16 points each. Milos Teodosic (195-G-87) and Yotam Halperin (196-G-84) stopped to 10 pts.
Montepaschi had wonderful beginning. After 12-12 tie, the home squad made 17-6 run to finish the first period with double-digit lead (29-18). The hosts reached plus 13 at the beginning of Q2 and later ended it with 50-36. Malik Hairston was shining for Montepaschi in the first half, swishing turnaround jumpers, driving to the basket, daring visiting defenders to stop his one-on-one play and ending with 9 points in the second quarter and 19 for the half. The Reds drastically improved after the breather and came to 63-58 late in Q3. Ksistof Lavrinovic replied with a triple and later third quarter ended with 68-61 Montepaschi lead. Visitors were still in at that time, but not any longer after seven straight points by Marko Jaric in the last quarter. Montepaschi jumped to plus 12 and even reached 15-point lead with two minutes to go. The home fans already started to celebrate as their Montepaschi is back to Euroleague Final Four after two seasons (last time in 2008).
Maccabi T-A - Caja Laboral 99-77
Maccabi Electra stormed back to the Euroleague Final Four for the first time since 2008. The Israeli powerhouse blasted Spanish champion Caja Laboral 99-77 in Game Four winning the series with 3-1. Maccabi's thriller win in the second meeting in Vitoria was crucial in this series. Jeremy Pargo (188-PG-86, agency: Priority Sports, college: Gonzaga) shined with 26 points and 7 assists for the hosts, and Guy Pnini (200-F/G-83) added 22 pts. David Blu (201-F-80, college: USC) helped with 17 points on the night. Caja Laboral got 17 points from Mirza Teletovic (206-F-85, agency: Beo Basket) and 13 from Brad Oleson (191-G-83, agency: Duran International, college: Alaska-Fairb.). Marcelinho Huertas (191-G-83, agency: Edge Sports) had 12 points and 6 assists.
Third quarter was the crucial one in this meeting. Before that, Maccabi made 25-23 in the first ten minutes and Caja Laboral replied with 26-29 in Q2 for 51-52 half time lead. The home squad exploded after the breather. Jeremy Pargo and his teammates made 16-4 run in five minutes and for rest of the period they jumped to impressive 79-62. Maccabi reached 87-64 at the beginning of the Q4 and it was already clear who the winner of the night will be. The home fans had a reason to celebrate even 8 minutes before the end as their Maccabi returned to Euroleague Final Four. They will meet Valencia or Real Madrid in the Semis.
Valencia - Real Madrid 81-72
Power Electronics Valencia forced decisive Game Five against Real Madrid. The last season's EuroCup winner celebrated 81-72 victory last night tying the score to 2-2 in the Euroleague Quarterfinals. Omar-Sharif Cook (186-G-82, agency: Beo Basket, college: St.John's) stepped up for the hosts with 16 points and 7 assists. Robertas Javtokas (211-C-80, agency: Interperformances, college: Arizona) (7 rebs), Nando De Colo (202-G-87) (5 as) and Dusko Savanovic (204-F/C-83, agency: Beo Basket) helped with 12 points each. On the other side, visitors got 20 points from Ante Tomic (217-C-87). Clay Tucker (195-G-80, agency: Pro One Sports, college: Wisc.-Milwaukee) and Pablo Prigioni (191-G-77) (6 as) netted 14 and 11 pts respectively.
Valencia opened the game better as they made 17-14 lead in the first ten minutes. Real Madrid tied the score to 19-19 at the beginning of Q2 and later grabbed 29-33. Thanks to Omar-Sharif Cook and Rafa Martinez, the home squad closed the second period with 11-5 and was 40-38 up at the halftime. Ante Tomic and his teammates shined after the breather and with quick 0-8 run jumped to plus six, but Robertas Javtokas saved Valencia with three straight baskets. Dusko Savanovic and Pietrus joined him for 59-55 Valencia lead after 30 minutes. At the halfway of the last period Valencia reached 69-60 and Real Madrid was in deep trouble. It was too much for the guests and Valencia forced Game Five in Madrid on April 6 or 7.
Panathinaikos - Regal Barca 78-67
The most flourishing European Team during the last decade is back to Final four after a small break! The outsider team of Panathinaikos beat three times the last year's European champion team of Barcelona and will travel all the way to Barcelona for the Final four in the place of the 'Host' team. Panathinaikos was magnificent for another one game and the Serbian Head Coach Zelimir Obradovic proved once more that he is a master coach as he check mate his opponent Coach Pasqual in all the edges of the court.
Panathinaikos was not lucky at all as only five minutes from the very beginning saw his leader 3D - Dimitris Diamantidis (196-G-80) to be charged his second personal foul only 3 minutes after the beginning while two minutes afterwards one of the top scorers and key elements of the Green team, Drew Nicholas left his team with one player less as he got injured (rumors are bringing him at least three weeks out of the basketball courts) so in only two minutes Coach Z. saw his two valuable players off the most crucial game of the season (until the next one). The remaining five minutes of the game moved in Obradovic's slow game with control basketball, many pick and rolls, tough defense and the power house of Barcelona remaining in 12 points after ten minutes, with the score being 16-12 in the first quarter and Nick Calathes (198-G-89, college: Florida) scoring five points but Panathinaikos is obviously very stressed as his percentages from the charity line is not more than 50% with 6 out of 12 free throws missed.
The second quarter found the two teams with Vaquez being unstoppable and scoring 7 consecutive points, and changin the balances as the minus four became plus four for Barcelona with Lakovic scoring a basket five minutes before the end of the first half. Batiste and Navarro were scoring for the Greeks and Catalonians respectively until the end of the first half when the home team of Panathinaikos took the lead with the deprived 34-33. The defense that Panathinaikos choose under the great guidance of Coach Z. forced Barca to remain to 33 points in 20 minutes.
The third quarter started with Lorbek and Vougioukas scoring a pair of baskets and 3D who came back to the game starting his personal crescent and his rich repertoire with a couple of assists and seven points while on behalf of Barcelona only Anderson is scoring so very simply Panathinaikos is gaining this quarter with 22-14 and the score being to +9 for the Greens after 30 minutes 56-47. The almighty Barcelona is able to score just 47 points in 30 minutes!!
It is obvious that the psychology factor is on home team's site as the Green players are more passionate and more willing to play defense to run the ball to risk and to play the total basketball.
The fourth quarter was simply the epilogue of the four games played between the two teams, 3D took his gun and start bombing the Catalonian basket, while Coach Pasqual couldn't answer to the check-mate moves of Coach Obradovic, Nick Calathes on Navaro was perfect, Vougioukas in the paint was awesome, while Sato and Perperoglou in the position three were offering the basketball essence to the Green team. The score went up to 13 points but Morris try to fight back and with a pair of three's cut the deficit to as low as six points, the American (ex player of Apollon Patras) was all alone as Lakovic, Navarro and Anderson were very well 'kept' by their personal opponents. Fotsis, Sato and Nick Calathes scored the last six points of Panathinaikos to the final 78-67 and Panathinaikos is back to his physical position in the elite of the European Basketball.
The top performers for the two teams were as follows:
Panathinaikos: Nick Calathes 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steal in his top performing game since he arrived in Panathinaikos, the natural leader of the Greens, Dimitris Diamantidis scored 11 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in less than 25 minutes and Antonis Fotsis with 11 points and six rebounds were the three top performers but Sato and Vougioukas 10 points were more than critical and especially for the Greek center this game was a starting point in his career as it was the most difficult and most critical game for the young center.
Barcelona: Fran Vazquez (209-C-83) was amazing, the Catalonian player scored 14 points and dashed down 5 rebounds in his top performing game in this series, he was all alone though as the heavy names of Navarro (7 points) and Rubio (3 points) with Grimau (2 points) and Morris (5 points) couldn't do a lot to harm the Greek champs, only Alan Anderson (198-G/F-82, agency: Priority Sports, college: Michigan St.) tried a bit more but his 13 points (8 of which in the last quarter) came quite late for the Catalonians ex European champions. *by Chris Mammides