Game Center: CSKA to playoffs, Efes clinches home court
A fifth team joined the playoffs in Roun d28 and a first clinched home-court advantage in the next round. CSKA Moscow had the highlight of the night on Thursday, when it crushed Panathinaikos in Athens by 31 points to clinch a playoff berth, joining Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in the next round. On Friday, Efes did the others one better with a 91-79 home win vs. Olympiacos that assured it would host Game 1 of the playoffs. Shane Larkin became the first EuroLeague player ever to scored 40 points a second time and tied his and Andrew Goudelock's record with 10 three-pointers made. Two overtime games among four that were decided by 3 points or less just added to the drama, and left nine teams within three victories of each other to fight for three remaining playoff spots. Wow!
Zenit St Petersburg 76-75 Zalgiris Kaunas
Zenit St Petersburg snapped its six-game losing streak by edging Zalgiris Kaunas 76-75 after overtime at Sibur Arena on Thursday. Zenit improved to 8-20 in the standings while Zalgiris dropped to 12-16 and saw its three-game winning streak come to an end. Andrew Albicy, who made the game-winning free throws, led the winners with 19 points. Colton Iverson added 14 and Gustavo Ayon had 10 for Zenit. Jock Landale scored a career-best 27 points for Zalgiris. K.C. Rivers added 14, Zach LeDay had 11 and Thomas Walkup dished 11 assists for the visitors. Landale and Rivers fueled a 0-14 run which helped Zalgiris to a double-digit margin, 12-27, after 10 minutes. Alex Renfroe and Andrey Zubkov stepped up for Zenit early in the second quarter and then Iverson and Albicy led a 14-0 run that brought the hosts within 40-41 right after halftime. Paulius Jankunas, Martinas Geben and LeDay rescued Zalgiris, giving the visitors a 47-53 margin after 30 minutes. Ayon gave Zalgiris a 66-60 lead with less than 3 minutes left in regulation but Edgaras Ulanovas, Landale and Walkup pushed the visitors to force overtime, 66-66. Once in the extra period, Landale and Rivers took over early, but Iverson, Austin Hollins and an outstanding Albicy put Zenit ahead, 76-75, with 2.8 seconds left. Rivers missed the final shot of the game at the buzzer.
Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 66-97 CSKA Moscow
CSKA Moscow booked its place in the playoffs in emphatic fashion by crushing out-of-form Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 66-97 on the road. The reigning champs used a free-scoring first quarter to establish a strong early advantage which rarely looked in danger, with CSKA leading in the teens for long periods before steadily extended the margin to cruise home without any trouble. Darrun Hilliard led the way with 21 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting, while Mike James scored 18 against his former club. Kyle Hines combined 13 points and 8 rebounds, Howard Sant-Roos scored 11 and Johannes Voigtmann and Kosta Koufos both added 10. DeShaun Thomas paced the home team with 12 points, while Nick Calathes had 10 points and 7 assists. Panathinaikos has lost six of its last seven games to drop to 14-14, while CSKA advanced to 19-9 and can now focus on fighting for homecourt advantage.
Real Madrid 87-78 LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne
Real Madrid rallied from a double-digit deficit to down a resilient ASVEL Villeurbanne 87-78 on Thursday night in the Spanish capital. It was the seventh straight win for Real which improved its record to 22-6 and loser to securing homecourt advantage in the playoffs. ASVEL dropped to 10-18. The visitors used a strong start to open an 11-point second-quarter lead and even though Real quickly rallied, ASVEL was up 51-59 in the third quarter before the hosts put together a 23-5 charge bridging the third and fourth quarters to take control and never look back. Jaycee Carroll led the way with 19 points, Fabien Causeur added 15 while Usman Garuba collected 10 points plus 6 rebounds in the victory. Livio Jean-Charles scored 13 points and Theo Maledon had 12 points for ASVEL, Matthew Strazel finished with 11 points and 5 assists and Tonye Jekiri collected 10 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort.
Valencia Basket 81-83 AX Armani Exchange Milan
Vladimir Micov's three-pointer left his hands a fraction of a second before the overtime buzzer to lift AX Armani Exchange Milan to a stunning 81-83 victory over Valencia Basket at La Fonteta on Thursday. Both teams now have 12-16 records in the standings. Sergio Rodriguez led the winners with 16 points, Micov finished with 13 and Michael Roll and Luis Scola each scored 11 for Milan. Alberto Abalde led Valencia with 21 points, Bojan Dubljevic added 19 and Maurice Ndour had 12 for the hosts. Down 5 with a minute left in regulation, Dubljevic and Abalde rallied Valencia to force overtime, 65-65. Dubljevic and Abalde combined for 13 points in the extra period, but Micov had the final word with the game-winning three-point shot.
Khimki Moscow Region 82-68 Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul
In a critical battle in the fight to reach the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs, Khimki Moscow Region downed visiting Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 82-68 at Arena Mytishchi on Friday. Both teams now have 13-15 records, but Khimki took over seventh place from Fenerbahce due to having won this game by a single point more than it lost when they played in Istanbul earlier in the season. Alexey Shved led the winners with 23 points. Jonas Jerebko and Devin Booker each added 15 while Thomas Robinson had 10 for Khimki. Ali Muhammed led Fenerbahce with 13 points, while Nando De Colo and Derrick Williams added 11 and Joffrey Lauvergne 10. In fact, Lauvergne scored Fenerbahce's first 10 points before Shved and Janis Timma buried 2 three-pointers apiece as Khimki surged in front 26-18 after 10 minutes. Fenerbahce rallied in the second quarter behind Muhammed, Luigi Datome and De Colo to lead 35-40. Shved's buzzer-beater, however, restored a 41-40 Khimki edge at the break, after which Robinson and Booker keyed an improved defense and Khimki took a 64-54 edge after 30 minutes. Shved and Stefan Jovic kept the margin high as the teams battled for the tie-break advantage that Robinson gave his team on the game's last basket.
Anadolu Efes Istanbul 91-79 Olympiacos Piraeus
Shane Larkin made EuroLeague history again by scoring 40 points on a record-tying 10 three-point shots as Anadolu Efes Istanbul clinched home-court advantage in the playoffs by downing Olympiacos Piraeus 91-79 on Friday at the Sinan Erdem Dome. Efes improved its league-leading record to 24-4. Combined with a loss by Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, Efes is assured of finishing as one of the top four teams at the end of the regular season. Olympiacos dropped to 12-16 to share ninth place in the standings. The Reds had a fast start and led by 8 points, but Larkin, Vasilije Micic and Tibor Pleiss fueled an 18-2 first-quarter run to give Efes a double-digit lead that it never relinquished. Larkin made 10 of 15 three-point shots, and also had 5 assists and 3 steals. Pleiss scored 13 points, Micic had 12 and 9 assists, and Bryant Dunston, in his first extended action since November, scored 11. Octavius Ellis had 14 points for Olympiacos, Dwight Buycks added 11 points and 8 assists, and Sasha Vezenkov finished with 10 in a losing effort.
KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 73-72 ALBA Berlin
KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz rallied from a 17-point deficit over 11 minutes to edge the visiting ALBA Berlin 73-72 in a thrilling fashion at home on Friday. Baskonia trailed for almost 30 minutes and was behind 39-56 in the final minute of the third quarter, only to put together a 17-0 run and tie the score early in the fourth. But ALBA never allowed Baskonia to take the lead until Matt Janning hit what turned out to be a game-winning three-pointer with 3.2 seconds left. ALBA still had one final possession, but Tornike Shengelia rose high to block Luke Sikma's attempt and start a big celebration at Buesa Arena. Shengelia was everywhere and finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals to lead Baskonia. Semaj Christon scored 14 points, Ilimane Diop added 11, and Janning finished with 10 in a victory that lifted Baskonia into a five-team tie for the ninth-best record, 12-16. Marcus Eriksson netted 16 points for ALBA and Niels Giffey had 14 in the losing effort. ALBA dropped to 9-19 and is all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race.
FC Barcelona 83-80 FC Bayern Munich
In one of the season's most impressive comebacks, FC Barcelona grabbed its ninth consecutive win by edging FC Bayern Munich 83-80 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday. Barcelona, which has already qualified for the playoffs, improved to 22-6 in the standings while Bayern dropped to 8-20. Barcelona trailed 69-77 with under 4 minutes left, but Nikola Mirotic and Pierre Oriola led a 12-0 run that sealed the outcome in unbelievable fashion. Mirotic led the winners with 28 points. Cory Higgins added 16 and Kyle Kuric 13 for Barcelona. Greg Monroe led Bayern with 19 points. Maodo Lo added 14, Vladimir Lucic 12 and Zan Sisko 10. Lo, Danilo Barthel, T.J. Bray and Paul Zipser each hit a triple in the first quarter before Mirotic and Malcolm Delaney let Barcelona tie it up 21-21 after 10 minutes. Monroe stepped up in the second quarter, getting help from Sisko and Lucic to give Bayern a 30-36 lead, although Higgins and Alex Abrines fueled a 10-0 run as Barcelona went back in front by 42-41 at halftime. Monroe and Lucic sparked a 0-14 run that took Bayern to a double-digit lead, 57-68, after 30 minutes. Everything seemed to be in Bayern's favor until Mirotic and Oriola combined for 11 points down the stretch as Barcelona won in come-from-behind fashion!