Madrid sweeps PAO to reach Final Four
Real Madrid became the first team to qualify for the 2019 Final Four by downing Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 82-89 in Game 3 of their playoff series in the Greek capital on Tuesday. Madrid swept the best-of-five series and reached its 10th Final Four since the format was adopted in 1988. Madrid, the winningest team in EuroLeague history with 10 crowns, kept its chance to win consecutive EuroLeague titles from the first time since 1968. Facu Campazzo shined with 16 points and 10 assists and Rudy Fernandez also scored 16 for the winners. Jeffery Taylor added 13 points and Anthony Randolph and Gustavo Ayon each netted 12 for Madrid. Nick Calathes paced Panathinaikos with 17 points and 7 assists, Matt Lojeski added 16 points, DeShaun Thomas 11 and Keith Langford 10. Campazzo and Fernandez shined early and an outstanding Taylor gave Madrid an 18-23 lead after 10 minutes. Trey Thompkins boosted the visitors' margin to 25-34, but Lojeski and Ioannis Papapetrou fueled a 16-2 run that gave Panathinaikos the lead, 41-36, at halftime. A three-pointer by Langford tied the game at 58-58 through 30 minutes. Lojeski gave Panathinaikos its last lead, 68-70, but an outstanding Ayon and three-pointers by Taylor, Randolph and Campazzo sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Campazzo got Madrid going with a three-pointer and an alley-oop dunk by Edy Tavares gave the guests a 2-5 lead. Fernandez bettered Calathes's floater with a bomb from downtown and Randolph followed a dunk with a jumper for a 4-12 Madrid margin. Lojeski rescued Panathinaikos with a couple of mid-range jumpers and a triple. A layup by Thomas brought the hosts within 13-14. Calathes completed Panathinaikos's comeback with a three-pointer, but Randolph and Taylor each banked in close shots to make it 16-18. Fernandez nailed a triple off a screen and a reverse layup by Taylor gave Madrid fresh air, 18-23, after 10 minutes. Taylor scored again early in the second quarter. Papapetrou struck from beyond the arc and added an acrobatic reverse layup. Langford sank a jumper to give Panathinaikos hope at 25-30. Fabien Causeur took over with a driving layup and Thompkins added a turnaround jumper to keep Madrid comfortably ahead, 25-34. Papapetrou and Lojeski stepped up for the hosts and a basket-plus-foul by Thomas brought his team within 32-34. Papapetrou scored down low in an 11-0 run that Ian Vougioukas capped with free throws for a 36-34 Panathinaikos lead. A wild four-point play by Lojeski helped his team to a 41-36 margin at halftime.
A layup by Taylor and a three-pointer by Fernandez caused Panathinaikos to call timeout at 41-41 shortly after the break. Calathes answered from downtown and fed Georgios Papagiannis for a dunk that ignited the crowd at 46-41. Fernandez and Taylor kept pushing Madrid, but James Gist and Papagiannis kept the Greens in charge. After Randolph downed a triple, Gist dunked and a jumper by Langford gave Panathinaikos a 54-49 margin. Campazzo buried a three-pointer and a jumper by Thompkins tied it at 54-54. Jaycee Carroll nailed a floater and Gustavo Ayon found his first point, but Langford tied the game again, 58-58, after 30 minutes. Vougioukas and Ayon each scored in the low post early in the fourth quarter. A jumper by Gabriel Deck put Madrid ahead 60-62. Langford and Thompkins traded jumpers and a jump hook by Vougioukas tied it again, 64-64, with 7 minutes left. Ayon took over with an up-and-under layup, but Thomas and Lojeski gave Panathinaikos a 68-66 edge. Campazzo fed Ayon for three consecutive baskets - a dunk and a couple of layups – for a 68-72 Madrid lead. Taylor bettered Vougioukas's jump hook with a triple, but a layup by Calathes gave Panathinaikos hope at 72-75. Randolph sank a critical three-pointer and Campazzo added another one from beyond the arc to seal the outcome, 74-81, and Panathinaikos never recovered.
Campazzo made magic in Athens with a double-double - 16 points and 10 assists. He hit 3 of 6 three-point shots and added 3 rebounds, a steal and 6 fouls drawn for a game-high performance index rating of 23. Campazzo rounded out a great series with a memorable game at Olympic Sports Center Athens.
Panathinaikos led 68-66 midway through the fourth quarter, but Campazzo found a connection with Ayon. Campazzo fed Ayon for a dunk and a couple of layups. Taylor and Randolph each added a three-pointer that gave Madrid a 72-78 lead with less than 2 minutes remaining.
Madrid outrebounded Panathinaikos 24-39, which made the difference in the game. Madrid also hit 22 of 32 two-point shots. Its 68.8% shooting percentage inside the arc was the third-best in Madrid's playoff history; it hit 74.1% against Panathinaikos in Game 4 last season and 69.7% against Buducnost in Game 2 of the 2001 eighthfinals.
Did you notice?
Madrid has made it to the Final Four for the seventh time this decade. It has reached the competition's definitive stage in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Only CSKA Moscow - eight appearances, with a chance to make it nine – has reached the Final Four more often in the 2010s.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019