Euroleague Quarter Final Picture EmergingPosted: February 27, 2011
After another dramatic night in Euroleague Top 16 play, some of the quarter final seedings are beginning to take shape, whilst elsewhere there is an almighty logjam developing.
In the biggest shock of the week, the Lithuanians continued their incredulous run towards a quarter final spot, beating Panathinaikos 68-67. Khalid el-Amin might not be the best player in the competition, but I’d love to hear nominations for anyone cooler under pressure. He sank two free throws with 3.1 seconds remaining, after Dimitris Diamantidis had done the same with 7 on the clock. Pana took a timeout to inbound from their frontcourt but Drew Nicholas’ fallaway three from the left corner was no good.
Caja Laboral comfortably won the all-ACB clash 78-63 over Unicaja. This wasn’t really a close game at any point, even though it was 40-38 close to halftime. Unicaja’s season is petering out and there is much to address in the summer, not least the backcourt. Joel Freeland got his 15/8 in usual fashion, but it wasn’t enough.
Group E now looks very complicated indeed. Unicaja are eliminated, but Pana, Caja Laboral and Rytas are all tied on 3-2. The latter two teams play each other next week in Vilnius, with the winner guaranteed a quarter final spot. Panathaniakos should get that other slot, by winning at Unicaja, but stranger things have happened. Should Pana win, they will win the group if Rytas beat Caja Laboral, as the Greens hold the tiebreak. Caja Lab will win the group by beating Rytas as they hold the tiebreak over Pana.
If Unicaja wins, then Panathaniakos will be rooting for Caja Lab to win. If that happens, the Greeks hold the tiebreak over Rytas, and with both teams on 3-3, Panathinaikos would progress.
Whoever wins Group E will get homecourt advantage in the QF series against Maccabi Tel Aviv, after they finished second in group F. They lost to Barcelona, 92-85 in OT. This was in some ways a free pass for both teams, having both already qualified for the quarter final stage, but Maccabi would have wanted the 11 point win that would have given them a chance to win the group. Alan Anderson nearly came up the goat at the end of regulation – having made a comeback over the course of the game to lead by 1, Erazem Lorbek went to the line with 3.6 on the clock. He sank the first but missed the second, the rebound going to Doron Perkins. Anderson instinctively grabbed Perkins as he tore up the court, to prevent the 3. It was an ingenious move with only one flaw – Barcelona were up only two. Perkins stepped up with 1.4 left to tie the game at 73-73 and Anderson was powerless to make up for his error, having fouled out.
In the end, it didn’t matter, as the Catalans scored an incredible 19 points in overtime to overwhelm their hosts. That leaves nothing to play for in week 6 other than bragging rights, with FCB guaranteed top spot and Maccabi locked into second place.
In the dead rubber, Lottomatica Roma salvaged some pride by overcoming Union Olimpija 87-76 away at the Stozice Arena.
Real Madrid had already qualified but their 61-56 win in Belgrade over Partizan sews up the #1 seed from group G. Partizan are still winless but to their credit this game was only decided in the final minute, a key Ante Tomic bankshot from the post proving decisive. Tomic led all scorers with 21, whilst at the very other end of the spectrum, Partizan point guard Curtis Jerrels ended scoreless in 16 minutes, 0/8 from the field and a -7 ranking. Ouch. Llull and Mirotic were also in double figures for Madrid. Real are still undefeated and whilst this wasn’t a vintage performance, any win at Pionir is a good win.
Montepaschi rode that crucial home advantage at the Palaestra to outlast Efes 88-76 in a fantastic game. It was a real team effort, particularly on defense in the second half. After a first half in which both sides were scoring at will, Siena kept their heads above water to lead 49-47. Moss, Kaukenas, Rakovic and Ksistof Lavrinovic shared the scoring load, whilst some stingy defense after the break shut down Nikola Vujicic and Igor Rakocevic just enough to pull away for a double digit win that was nevertheless hard fought and never guaranteed.
Montepaschi are the #2 seed in the group and will play Olympiakos in the QFs. Madrid will play either Fenerbahce or Power Electronics Valencia, who play each other next week. If Fenerbahce win, they are guaranteed 2nd spot; Valencia need to win by 3 or more to get the tiebreak over their rivals from Istanbul.
As above, Olympiakos beat a short handed Fenerbahce 80-65 and the injuries to Mirsad Turkcan and Gasper Vidmar seem to have caught up with FBU upfront. Even though Ioannis Borousis was suspended, young bucks Loukas Mavrokefelides and Zoran Erceg went crazy, with 18 and 19 points between them. Fenerbahce had no answer for those two, plus Rasho Nesterovic, as Olympiakos showed that they are just as deep as Barcelona and can throw any number of different combinations of players at any team. Spanoulis glided to the hoop in characteristic fashion more than once, and Theo Papaloukas took over from Milos Teodosic late on as the Serbian had a bit of an off-night.
Valenica went to Kaunas and beat Zalgiris 80-74, eventually getting rid of the pesky Lithuanian side who very nearly staged a miracle comeback in the final 90 seconds. With the key game next week agains Fenerbahce taking place in northeastern Spain, it would be difficult to bet against Valencia, on a role at home to go up to 3rd in the ACB and the Turks looking weary from injuries. An all-ACB quarter final is probably not what Real Madrid would be looking for, given their spotty domestic form lately, losing again this afternoon against Blancos de Rueda Valladolid.