The European season is now at the business end, with Dan Trist playing off for a Danish League title, Venky Jois in the Estonian semifinals, while Nathan Sobey and Brad Newley are in the Greek A1 quarterfinals and Brock Motum and Ben Madgen are in the Lithuanian LKL quarterfinals.
Despite losing game 1 to Horsens IC, Bakken has bounced back to win the next two games to take a 2-1 lead in the Danish League grand final series. Forward Dan Trist piled on 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in game 2 for Horsens, but it was not enough to prevent Bakken running away with a crushing 76-94 victory. Bakken earned the win thanks to their hot shooting from downtown, draining 12 triples to come away with an important road win to level the series.
Bakken was again in control in the third game, dishing out 27 assists to just 14 as they held off a fast finishing Horsens to prevail 91-81. As he has done all throughout the finals, Trist delivered yet again on the big stage. This time he added a team-best 18 points with 5 rebounds and 2 assists, yet his individual contribution was not enough for his side to get over the line. Horsens will need to win game 4 on Friday (Australian time) if they wish to remain in the hunt for the 2017 Danish League title.
Venky Jois and Tartu Rock opened their Alexela KML semifinals in Estonia with a tough 60-70 home loss to Rapla. In the upset, Jois saw little action, playing just 5 minutes for 2 points and 1 rebound. Game 2 saw Rapla take a commanding 2-0 series lead as they again upset the more fancied Tartu 71-58 this time on their home court. Given an opportunity, Jois was very good for Tartu, contributing 13 points (6-of-11 FG), 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in 21 minutes. However despite his additional output from the bench, Tartu is now facing a shock semifinal elimination after dropping just 3 games all season.
Over in Lithuania, Lietkabelis enjoyed a big 95-71 win over Nevėžis to close out the regular season. Guard Ben Madgen played an important role in setting up the win, gathering 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in guiding his team to victory. Behind Madgen’s performance, Lietkabelis were far too efficient from the field, shooting at 65% from inside the arc and 48% beyond it, with Madgen draining 2-of-4 from long-range.
It was a much closer contest when Lietkabelis next took on Vytautas in game 1 of their quarterfinal series. Vytautas had led all game since trailing 4-7 early in the first term, but could not hold off a spirited Lietkabelis comeback who would steal the win, 77-75. While Lietkabelis momentarily stole the lead back twice in the final 50 seconds, Vytautas responded each time to edge back ahead, including a massive three-pointer with 2.4 seconds left in the game. With last possession, Lietkabelis responded with a cold-blooded buzzer-beating triple of their own thanks to Gintaras Leonavičius to steal the win. Madgen was again great, adding 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists as Lietkabelis took an important 1-0 series lead.
Žalgiris Kaunas overcome a slow start to cruise past Juventus and record a 90-76 win in the last round of the Lithuanian LKL. Despite trailing by 7 points at the end of the first period, Žalgiris would claw back the lead for good early in the second half and then move on to win by 14 points. Brock Motum was again efficient offensively in gathering 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He would also finish with 3 rebounds and 2 assists in his 18 minutes on court for the minor premiers.
Their next two games would be home and then away to Dzūkija in the quarterfinals, with Žalgiris coming away with two straight wins. In their 80-73 home win, Motum experienced a rare quite game offensively. The Australian Boomer was restricted to just 4 points with 4 rebounds and 1 assist in 21 minutes.
Back on the road, Žalgiris would again prove to strong for Dzūkija, earning a 74-87 victory behind a dominant performance by Motum. Making amends for his previous low-scoring output, Motum would exact revenge by burying 5-of-7 three-pointers on his way to delivering a game-high 21 points. He would also chime in with 3 rebounds and 2 assists, as Žalgiris ensured they remained 7 wins clear in first place and a position from which they cannot be removed this season.
AEK Athens opened their quarterfinal campaign in the Greek A1 League with a convincing 90-78 win against AGOR. Playing a role off the bench, Brad Newley chipped in 5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 21 minutes as his team executed strongly to take a 1-0 series lead.
In their quarterfinal series in Greece, PAOK Thessaloniki almost stole the opening game on the road, ultimately falling to Aris 69-65 in an overtime thriller. Foul trouble down the stretch was the undoing of PAOK, who were superbly led by Nathan Sobey. Sobey put up a a game-high 20 points with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. However Sobey would rue his wayward three-point shooting, going a cold 0-of-8 from beyond the arc as they fell 0-1.
The Iranian Superleague quarterfinals tipped off last week, with Daniel Johnson’s Petrochimi sweeping their way to a 3-0 series win over Army. Combining with late season addition, former NBA player Hamed Haddadi, Petrochimi boasts arguably the most formidable front court paring in the league. Johnson had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in their 86-70 game 1 victory. He would have a quiet outing in Petrochimi’s 79-70 game 2 win, adding just 1 point and 2 rebounds in a foul plagued 12 minutes. Petrochimi wrapped up their quarterfinal series sweep with a solid 73-83 win. Johnson did not play in the close-out game 3 win and may have sustained a game 2 injury (to be confirmed).
Still in Iran, AJ Ogilvy and Azad sewed up their quarterfinals series with a 3-1 win over Tabriz. They opened with a convincing 90-74 victory, with Ogilvy dominating the paint for a big double-double consisted of 18 points (6-of-8 FG) and 15 rebounds, with 2 steals and 3 blocked shots. Game 2 saw Azad come away with a second straight win (89-81), however Tabriz were able to frustrate Ogilvy. They limited Ogilvy to just 4 points (0-of-6 FG), with his tally coming courtesy of 4-of-6 shots from the free throw line. Ogilvy did still manage 10 rebounds in his 18 minutes on court.
Game 3 saw Tabriz fight back to defend their home court, inflicting a 95-91 defeat of Azad. Ogilvy was back to his absolute best, delivering a game-high 27 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting from inside the arc (1-of-3 3PT) with 10 rebounds to notch up another double-double. However despite his best efforts and a fast finish, Azad could not manage the sweep. Azad would manage the series win in game 4 thanks to a 77-89 win. Again dominant, Ogilvy would deliver his third double-double of the 4-game quarterfinal series, this time compiling 19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block.
Ogilvy and Azad await the winner of Arak and Chemidor who are currently locked at 2-2 in their quarterfinal series. Johnson and Petrochimi will face Naft Abadan in their semifinal showdown.
Bristol fell 2-0 behind Newcastle in their quarterfinal series in the British Basketball League following their agonising 2-point loss in game 2 (82-84). Michael Vigor did his best to get his team over the line, contributing 9 point and 5 rebounds in the narrow loss.
Enjoying better fortunes in the BBL were Glasgow who are tied at 1-1 with London. Glasgow overturned their game 1 loss to account for London 71-62. Forward Lewis Thomas enjoyed a good game for the Rocks, compiling 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in the big home win.
In their march towards the playoffs in the French Pro A, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne recorded two important wins. In their 77-85 win against 18th ranked Nancy, David Andersen came off the bench for a handy 6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 blocked shot in 18 minutes. Melbourne United team-mate Casper Ware who is on the same team as Andersen in France, started and chipped in 11 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists. They went up against former NBL star Ebi Ere who led all scorers with 23 points in a losing effort.
FMP Belgrade suffered their first loss off the Serbian KLS second stage, they were overwhelmed by the undefeated Crvena Zvezda 64-91. It did not help that star forward Jonah Bolden was hampered by foul trouble, restricting the Adriatic League’s Most Outstanding Prospect to just 18 minutes in which he added 10 points (3-of-5 FG) and 7 rebounds. FMP were outdone by a more organised and efficient team on the day.
ASVEL then easily accounted for Cholet 57-72 behind a devastating 20-42 first half onslaught. This time Andersen saw 14 minutes of court time for 4 points and 5 rebounds, while Ware added just 3 points with 1 rebound in just 17 minutes. As ASVEL was so dominant, they ran the bench for most of the second half. ASVEL remain in 8th position, just 1 game ahead of Limoges and Gravelines-Dunkerque for the last playoff spot.
Clint Steindl was on fire in Belgium’s EuroMillions League, exploding for 27 points which included a red-hot 6-of-8 three-pointers. Despite Steindl scorching the nets, his team-mates were not able to follow suit, as the Leuven Bears fell short to Spirou Charleroi 89-82. With 3 rounds of the regular season remaining, Leuven are guaranteed to finish in second last place.
Ryan Broekhoff and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar commence their VTB United League playoff campaign by taking on Unics Kazan on Saturday (Australian time).