GAME BLOG from Istanbul, semifinals

May 19, 2017 by Print
GAME BLOG from Istanbul, semifinals

Magnificent Udoh wraps up victory

Ekpe Udoh 3- Fenerbahce Istanbul - Final Four Istanbul 2017 - EB16

Taylor missed an open three that could have cut the deficit to 5. When Udoh fed Datome for a basket-plus-foul, it didn’t just restore a double-digit lead, but also brought the All-EuroLeague center within 2 assists of a historic triple-double with 3:21 remaining. That didn’t seem to be Udoh’s focus when he stuffed the next ball down the throat of the rim. The fans sang Ekpe’s name as it became clear that the dream of Fenerbahce playing the EuroLeague championship game in Istanbul was about to become a reality. Even though Llull and Carroll got their team within 6 in the final minute and tactical moves were made down the stretch, the outcome was never in doubt.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 23:28

Valiant Madrid halves the deficit

Fenerbahce led by 16, but Madrid refused to quit. Taylor netted a three, Othello Hunter blocked a shot and Thompkins connected from downtown. And it was 68-60. Madrid was playing with heart. The big question was not of talent, but whether after trailing for all 34 minutes to this point, did the team have enough left in the tank to take its comeback to the next level.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 23:12

A game of cat-and-mouse

Back-to-back threes by Carroll gave Madrid a reason to believe. But like before, Obradovic called timeout to try and contain the Madrid charge. Vesely and Udoh made up some of the margin – with Udoh dishing his career-best 6th assist, but Carroll hot another three and Llull added a layup to bring Los Blancos within 8. It was like a game of cat-and-mouse… Fener let Madrid get its hopes up and then answered. This time, Udoh scored twice and in between had a steal and another assist for a James Nunnally layup. The margin touched 15 before Llull free throws made it 63-50 through three quarters.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 23:04

Fenerbahce turns on cruise control

Bobby Dixon - Fenerbahce Istanbul - Final Four Istanbul 2017 - EB16

Randolph was back to start the second half. And Llull reached 20 personal points with a free throw to open the second half scoring. Then Randolph hit a jumper. But before too much changed, Udoh turned an offensive rebound into a hook shot and Kalinic collected his fourth steal. A twisting layup by Kalinic made it 48-37 and Madrid was back at the drawing board. Sloukas delivered a pair of jumpers to make it a 15-point game.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 22:48

Madrid comes back... and falls back

Just like before the break, Doncic pushed the ball in transition and found an open teammate for a three; this time it was Llull, who extended the Madrid run and quieted, at least temporarily, the loud crowd. Thompkins three from the corner capped a 0-11 run and Madrid was back in the game at 26-24. However momentum can be fleeting. And with Randolph on the floor in pain, Vesely’s two-handed jam contributed to a 9-1 Fenerbahce response. Randolph needed to be helped off the floor for what seemed to be a non-contact back injury. Despite 5 quick points from Jaycee Carroll, Bogdanovic nailed a three to restore a double-digit Fenerbahce advantage. And that’s how it stood at the break, 44-34.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 22:23

Obradovic uses timely timeout

Madrid turned to its second unit to lead a comeback early in the second quarter, but while they managed to limit Fenerbahce to 2 points in three and a half minutes, Madrid was also held without points in that time. By the time Trey Thompkins made free throws, four minutes had passed. But then Randolph hit a three in transition to make it 26-18 midway through the quarter. Before Madrid could get any momentum, Coach Obradovic called timeout.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 22:12

Madrid in trouble, but has reasons for hope

Rudy Fernandez and Jeffrey Taylor came in for Madrid, replacing Maciulis and Doncic. However a pair of blocks by Udoh – who became the single season EuroLeague record holder with 63 and counting – and another Dixon triple kept the Fenerbahce and its fans on a roll. Udoh’s reverse slam made it 19-9 and provided another highlight. It is 21-13 after 10 minutes and while that’s not good for Madrid, it is fair to assume Fenerbahce won’t make 60% of its threes the rest of the game and Madrid will improve on its 4 of 9 (44.4%) on twos and 1 of 7 (17.2%) on threes. Let’s see…

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 21:54

Vesely gets Fenerbahce and crowd going

Tip-Off Semifinal: Fenerbahce Istanbul vs. Real Madrid - Final Four Istanbul 2017

A Vesely slam and Kalinic triple not only gave the hosts a 7-2 start, but raised the din so much that it seemed the lid might blow off Sinan Erdem Dome. And then it got louder when Kalinic fed Vesely for an alley-oop slam and Dixon hit from downtown. It was 12-4. Madrid was playing hard and rebounding well, but 3 early turnovers and missed shots put the “visitors” behind the eight ball. A three by Llull changed little as Vesely scored his third basket just before the five-minute mark.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 21:42

It’s about to get loud!

Fenerbahce Istanbul fans have proven their devotion by snatching up at least three quarters of the tickets here at Sinan Erdem Dome. With signs like “NOW WE STRIKE” and “DESTINY WILL PREVAIL” unfurled from the stands, it is clear that Real Madrid will need some early magic to take the crowd out of the game. But Los Blancos have men fit for that role. It could be the starting guards, All-EuroLeague First Team selection Sergio Llull and Rising Star Trophy winner Luka Doncic, who line up alongside forwards Jonas Maciulis and Anthony Randolph and center Gustavo Ayon. Fenerbahce sends Bobby , Dixon, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nikola Kalinic, Jan Vesely and Ekpe Udoh out as its starters. Here we go!

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 21:28

Olympiacos has CSKA’s number when it matters most. Again.

Olympiacos’s last lead was 7-9. Agravanis and Green each missed from downtown with a chance to change that. Spanoulis didn’t. A deep triple with 1:53 showing put the Reds ahead 73-74. Spanoulis then drew attention to set up Birch for an alley-oop slam. But he’s not the only former MVP on the floor and Teodosic tied it at 76-76 with a three, which indecently moved him into eighth place among Final Four scorers all-time with 148 points. That fact did not impress Green, who answered with a three with 42 seconds to play. CSKA needed a defensive stand and got one. But Teodosic missed a pull-up shot in transition. Still, the champs got the ball back and had Higgins at the line with 3.1 second left down 77-80. He made the first and missed the second intentionally, but Khryapa and Hines were unable to corral the rebound. And Olympiacos proved to have CSKA’s number when it mattered most once again.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 20:42

Three minutes from glory

Augustine has three baskets… and all have been on the offensive glass. His third made it 69-64 and triggered a timeout. CSKA will not be intimidated. Olympiacos sought ways to get the ball in Spanoulis’s hands on every possession and used mismatches to get advantages, but CSKA never left Spanoulis alone. Instead the Reds got the ball to Green, who twice failed to make CSKA pay. But shortly after, Green drained a three after an offensive rebound by Milutinov. And then Spanoulis tied it. 69-69. And again at 71-71. A spot in the championship game will come down to three minutes of basketball.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 20:23

Buckle up for a wild ride!

Nikola Milutinov - Olympiacos Piraeus - Final Four Istanbul 2017 - EB16

Patric Young not only sent an attempted Teodosic layup into the seats at the start of the fourth quarter, but stared him down afterwards. The Reds look determined… And Agravanis free throws made it a 2-point game. And with 7:36 remaining, Spanoulis enters the game. But the first time he touched the ball, Higgins sent it into the seats. However on the second touch, he made it 65-64. Buckle up!

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 20:14

Does Olympiacos have another legendary comeback in its bag of tricks?

CSKA also climbed into the bonus and used free throws by Hines and Khryapa to restore a double-digit lead, 57-47. Shortly after, Spanoulis, who has missed all 4 of his shots from the field this far, took a seat after fouling Higgins on an attempted three. Does the Olympiacos legend have another legendary fourth-quarter in him? Papanikolaou and Mantzaris – with his 3rdthree of the game – are putting Spanoulis in position to make it happen. But while there is hope, the Reds suffered a blow when Teodosic drew a fourth foul from Printezis and made the resulting free throws for a 62-54 edge. Higgins stretched the difference to 10, but back-to-back Agravanis and Mantzaris threes made it 64-60 with one quarter remaining!

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 20:06

CSKA features heart, finesse to remain ahead

When Teodosoc passed up on a look from downtown to set up Jackson for a wide-open triple, the former pumped his first before pointing to the latter, who gestured back. It is that type of teamwork that made CSKA a champion one year ago. And it’s one reason CSKA leads 51-44 midway through the third quarter. The Reds are keeping it close, but CSKA is finding plenty of hustle on defense and the boards and finesse on the attack t remain ahead. During a stop in play with 4:40 on the clock, the Fenerbahce players entered the arena to watch some of the game and it quickly became clear how partisan in a crowd is at Sinan Erdem Dome. It will be a big advantage for the Istanbul side in that department later.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 19:57

Bonus time for the Reds

Dimitrios Agravanis - Olympiacos Piraeus - Final Four Istanbul 2017 - EB16

Milutinov stepped up to start the second half, despite being whistled for an offensive foul on the first Olympiacos possession. He made an alley-oop layup thanks to a pass from Spanoulis and then dished from the low post to Papanikolaou for a triple to close the gap to 42-38. Milutinov, Papanikolaou and Printezis each drew a foul in an 11-second span – including the third for Vorontsevich – to put the Reds in the bonus with nearly eight minutes left in the third quarter. The CSKA defense will be tested now!

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 19:45

Olympiacos plants seeds for comeback

We all know there are no quitters at Olympiacos. They won’t let you wear the red-and-white uniform if you don’t have heart. So even though after another Birch block, Teodosic drained a triple for the game’s biggest lead, 40-27, Mantzaris countered with a big three. And then came the play that may have a big difference… CSKA called timeout with 26 seconds remaining, but Teodosic missed from downtown and left enough time for an Olympiacos counterattack. Mantzaris pushed the ball upcourt and flung a pass to Dimitris Agravanis. The ball left the big man’s hands a fraction of a second before the halftime buzzer for a clutch triple that narrowed the gap to 40-33 at the break. Could those late threes be the start of another Olympiacos comeback?

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 19:35

Vets Khryapa, Teodosic take charge

Victor Khryapa is such a Final Four fixture – this season marks his record 11th Final Four – that almost every time he touches the ball, he is on the verge of making history. Khryapa’s assist to Hines for a slam not only gave the champs a double-digit lead (30-20), but tied the CSKA forward with his former teammate J.R. Holden for fourth place in Final Four history with 45 career steals. And he will tie two more greats, Dimitris Diamantidis and Sarunas Jasikevicius for second place with his next dime. Before that pass, Khryapa also collected his 22nd steal and he needs only 2 more to catch Holden for the all-time lead in the category. While Khryapa is making an impact, perhaps the most talked about player entering these games, Teodosic, is showing that despite a heel injury, his shooting stroke is intact. The former MVP knocked down a pair of threes to boost the margin to 36-25.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 19:13

CSKA has what to drum about

Andrey Vorontsevich - CSKA Moscow - Final Four Istanbul 2017 - EB16

One stat that jumps out after one quarter is Olympiacos’s huge rebounding advantage, 8-14. Even if 8 of the Reds’ boards were on the offensive end as a result of missed shots, it did not allow a single offensive rebound to CSKA until the 8:26 mark of the second quarter, when James Augustine put back a Victor Khryapa miss to make it 20-15. Every time Olympiacos seemed on the verge of erasing the gap, CSKA answered. Birch’s block of Augustine seemed to do it one, but Teodosic stole the ball seconds later and Augustine scored again off a CSKA miss. Then Mamtzaris nailed a big three for the Reds that got the fans singing again, but after De Colo free throws made it 24-20, the CSKA drums were the loudest sound in the hall.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 19:02

Papanikolaou gives – and takes away

Kostas Papanikolaou gave the Olympiacos fans something to sing about with a shot from downtown for his team’s first lead. Dimitris Itoudis went to his bench with Milos Teodosic and Cory Higgins coming on for Kurbanov and Jackson, while Giannis Sfairopolous replaced Milutinov with Khem Birch. No sub made an immediate impact; Teodosic missed his first shot and Birch had his first try rejected. Free throws by De Colo put CSKA up 4, but the Reds needn’t fret; it’s hard to imagine them continuing their poor shooting (2 of 9 inside the arc and 1 of 7 from downtown) for much longer. What may be a concern is that Papanikolaou was whistled for a second foul on an attempted three by Teodosic (he made the resulting 3 shots) and after some theatrics in protest, was warned by referee Damir Javor that another similar display would result in a technical foul. Sfairopolous immediately pulled Papanikolaou for Erick Green, but a Teodosic jumper capped an 11-0 CSKA run. However, Printezis’s tip-in made it 18-12 after 10 minutes.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 18:51

CSKA jumps to early lead

Aaron Jackson - CSKA Moscow - Final Four Istanbul 2017 - EB16

CSKA wins the opening tip and Nando De Colo drains a jumper. Olympiacos works the ball inside for a Nikola Milutinov stuff. It’s the type of start both teams hoped for. Aaron Jackson made an early impact with a three and a steal as CSKA soared ahead. The Reds were cold from outside and missed 3 early three-pointers, but a Georgios Printezis floater – his first in this building since the title-winning shot five years ago – and a pair of Vassilis Spanoulis free throws, kept Olympiacos close at 7-6 midway through the opening quarter.

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 18:42

The players take the floor!

Dominic Waters - Olympiacos Piraeus - Istanbul Final Four, 2017

The smell of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four is in the air with fans rushing into Sinan Erdem Dome and the first players now on the floor. At precisely 5:06 local time, Dominic Waters of Olympiacos Piraeus stepped onto the floor while being serenaded by the Reds’ faithful in section 411. A few minutes later, Erick Green followed and begin his shooting drills before Khem Birch came out to stretch. Joel Freeland was the first Moscow man on the court as he worked on his shot with assistant coach Darryl Middleton. James Augustine also came out early to stretch. As the minutes pass by, more players get warmed up and more fans find their seats. It’s almost time for the games we’ve been waiting a full season for. Bring on the semifinals!

Istanbul - Friday, May 19, 17:25