Euroleague: Olympiakos, CSKA and Real close on Final Four
Barcelona, the 2010 winners, have plenty of work to do after a dramatic 66-65 home defeat by Panathinaikos on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) tied their best-of-five series 1-1.
[Related: Big guns edge ahead in Euroleague playoffs]
Last season's runners-up CSKA routed Caja Laboral Vitoria 90-68 after Sasha Kaun, Nenad Krstic and Zoran Erceg scored 16 points each while Milos Teodosic added 14 points and seven assists.
"I have to say bravo to my players because it's not easy to beat a good team like Caja twice in three days," Italian coach Ettore Messina told the competition's official website (www.euroleague.net).
"We defended home court advantage and now we face a different game in the proud city of Vitoria," added the 53-year old who spent one season as an assistant at the Los Angeles Lakers after steering CSKA to two Euroleague titles in his first spell in charge from 2005-09.
Should Caja win the next two games on home court in Spain next week, the series will return to Moscow for a tiebreaker on April 25.
Home court advantage was also a telling factor when Olympiakos blew away Anadolu Efes Istanbul 71-53 and eight-time winners Real beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 75-63.
The champions overcame a 12-2 deficit in front of their raucous red and white clad supporters with playmaker Vassilis Spanoulis, forward Kyle Hines and center Pero Antic amassing 38 points and 14 rebounds between them.
Olympiakos also restricted Sasha Vujacic to two points and one field goal from five attempts while Jordan Farmar picked up a modest eight points as the two former Lakers guards endured a torrid evening in Athens.
Real, seeking their first Euroleague title since 1995, breezed past Maccabi after playmaker Sergio Llull capped a blistering performance with a game-high 26 points including six three-pointers from eight attempts.
The Spaniards nailed a total of 11 three-pointers having also collected five rebounds more than Maccabi while committing six turnovers fewer than the winners of four Euroleague titles.
Barcelona blew home court advantage and now face two stern tests at Panathinaikos after Dimitris Diamantidis buried a long-range effort for the six-time champions with eight seconds remaining.
The Greek side enjoyed sweet revenge for a 72-70 overtime defeat in the first game and will head home confident of eliminating the team with the best regular-season record.
"We have everything in our hands now - home court, our fans and everything that playing at home gives you," said Lithuanian forward Jonas Maciulis. - Reuters