Galatasaray soars into playoffs by beating Partizan 64-55
Decimated by injuries to start the season, Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul completed an inspirational comeback story with a 64-55 home win over Partizan NIS Belgrade on Friday to claim the fourth and last playoff spot, the first in club history, from Top 16 Group F. A packed crowd of 11,400 at Abdi Ipecki Arena was on its feet all night long to will their team to victory and a 7-7 record in Top 16, good for a fourth-place tie with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar. Galatasaray won their tie-break by virtue of a better points difference in their Top 16 group (+7) than Lokomotiv (-17) and will now face FC Barcelona in the best-of-five playoffs starting Tuesday in Spain. Partizan did not make it easy for Galatasaray, cutting a 12-point difference to just 54-47 with the first 5 points of the final quarter. But after Bogdan Bogdanovic's long three-pointer was ruled late for the shot clock, Malik Hairston hit his own and the hosts were back on track. Manuchar Markoishvili, who missed 16 games earlier in the season, paced the winners with 16 points in 34 minutes. He is the only Galatasaray player of four who were injured in the first month of Euroleague play to return yet. Furkan Aldemir hit 6 of 6 two-pointers for 13 points and pulled 7 rebounds for the winners, while Zoran Erceg had 13 and 6, respectively. Galatasaray's defense uniformly shut down Partizan's scorers as Davis Bertans, Joffrey Lauvergne and Bogdanovic scored 11 each, while Sasha Pavlovic added 10. Just three more Partizan players shared 12 points between them as the visitors finished their season with a 4-10 Top 16 record, 7-17 overall.
First quarter: Aldemir leads Galatasaray early
Markoishvili raised the roof to start the game with a triple from the corner, then Hairston fed Aldemir for a dunk and a 5-0 Galatasaray lead. Bertans struck from downtown then to get Partizan on the board before Lauvergne's tip-in tied it up. Erceg joined the Galatasaray scorers from the free throw line, but Lauvergne matched him with another put-back. Nikola Milutinov was next to get 2 points out of an offensive rebound, then Bertans drilled a corner triple and fed Lauvergne for a fastbreak alley-oop dunk to make it 7-13 and force a Galatasaray timeout. Milan Macvan came off the home bench with a second-chance triple, then Aldemir dunked alone to make it 12-13. After a big block by Aldemir on Lauvergne, Henry Domercant said hello with a a go-ahead jumper. Then Aldemir finished a great first quarter as he started it, with a pick-and-roll dunk for a 16-13 Galatasaray lead.
Second quarter: Erceg, Galatasaray pull away
Bogdanovic drilled a long three-pointer for a quick tie to open the second quarter, but just as quickly, Sinan Guler answered from the corner and Domercant hit 3 of 3 free throws to make it 22-16. Dejan Musli hit a rare fastbreak hook shot for Partizan and Pavlovic a driving layup to close the gap. Domercant popped another jumper that Pavlovic matched, but his unsportsmanlike foul led to 2 free throws by Macvan. Erceg picked up the scoring with free throws and a triple, to which Markoishvili added a jumper for a 33-25 Galatasaray lead. After Erceg's next basket, a jump-hook, Aldemir's next dunk turned into a three-point play for Galatasaray's first double-digit lead, 38-26. Bogdanovic got a basket back for Partizan, but Galatasaray had time left to find Markoishvili for a long two-pointer on the buzzer to finish the first half with a 40-28 advantage.
Third quarter: Markoishvili, Galatasaray guard lead
A pair of triples by Bertans got Partizan right back in the game, at 42-34, after halftime. Markoishvili soon ended 2 scoreless minutes against Partizan's 1-3-1 zone with a stop-and-pop jumper that Pavlovic matched with free throws. Carlos Arroyo's look-away pass found Aldemir for yet another easy basket, but after a couple more minutes without points, Bogdanovic's jumper off an inbounds play cut the difference to 46-38. Galatasaray went to a small lineup and got a free throw and corner triple from Markoishvili before Ender Arslan drove for a layup and a 52-39 lead. After a timeout by Partizan, Arslan repeated the same play to the other side of the basket, although Milenko Tepic erased it with a baseline jumper to end the third quarter 54-42.
Fourth quarter: Galatasaray's defense finishes the job
Bogdanovic broke the fourth-quarter ice with a three-pointer after 2 minutes before Bertans passed behind his back on the break to Lauvergne, whose layup suddenly made it 54-47. After a timeout, Bogdanovic seemed to beat the shot-clock with an incredible triple, but the refs looked at the replay and ruled it late. Hairston promptly buried a triple of his own, for what was effectively a six-point swing on the scoreboard at 57-47. Lauvergne reclaimed the three-pointer for Partizan, but Markoishvili answered in kind at 60-50. Pavlovic drilled a shot from downtown to cut the distance to single-digits, 60-53 with under 4 minutes left, but Erceg got 2 of those back with a long jumper. Lauvergne made it a seven-point game, 62-55, with a layup. A couple of good defenses and Aldemir's last touch, a tough inside layup, made it official. For the first time in club history, Galatasaray was going to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs!
Friday, April 11, 2014