EuroView: European playoffs heat up for Aussie men

Australians were once again on centre stage in post-season action across Europe and in Iran this past week, with AJ Ogilvy delivering three double-doubles for Azad, and Venky Jois earning third place in Estonia.

In the opening game of the Lithuanian LKL semifinals, after tight first quarter Žalgiris Kaunas managed to overpower Neptūnas Klaipeda to register a commanding 83-54 home win. Brock Motum was integral in his side gaining the ascendancy, going 4-of-5 from the field for 14 points with 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 13 minutes as the Žalgiris bench got a decent run due to the blowout.

Bristling with confidence after the win, Motum and Žalgiris headed to Neptūnas for game 2 where they received a reality check.

Playing on their home court, it was Neptūnas that took control of game 2, building a 9 point halftime lead. That advantage was extended to 11 heading into the final period. Žalgiris threw everything at the home side down the stretch, closing to within 1 point with under 3 minutes to play. However Neptūnas would hold on, managing the eke out an important win, 73-70 and lock up the series at 1-1. Motum would finish with 4 points on 2-of-3 shooting with 4 rebounds off the bench in 13 minutes.

In an intriguing Lithuanian semifinal match-up, Lietuvos Rytas played host to Lietkabelis Panevezys in the opening game. It was a tight and entertaining contest through the first half, and it was in the third term that the home side would establish an 11 point lead heading into the final break. That would end up being the final margin, with a final score of 96-85 earning them a 1-0 series lead. Combo guard Ben Madgen was a standout for Lietkabelis, pouring in a team-high 17 points (7-of-13 FG) with 2 assists and 2 steals, but it was not enough to avoid a road loss.

Lokomotiv Kuban booked their place in the VTB United League semifinals thanks to a 3-1 quarterfinal series win over Unics Kazan. Taking a 2-1 lead on the road for game 4, Lokomotiv started strongly and would never trail, holding on to earn a 79-84 win. Lokomotiv took care of business from the line, making a staggering 34-of-44 from the charity stripe that ultimately proved the difference. Ryan Broekhoff was elevated into the starting lineup and did not disappoint, contributing 5 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while having a plus/minus of +12 in the 5 point win. Lokomotiv move on to next tackle Russian superpower CSKA Moscow.

In Greece, AEK Athens caused a big upset when they defeated Panathinaikos Athens 71-70 at home to tie up their semifinal series at 1-1. As a starter, Brad Newley played a defensive role, playing 23 minutes for 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. It was a big win for AEK, one that they will hope to replicate in game 3 when they travel to Panathinaikos.

Tartu Rock secured third place in the Estonian Alexela KML after sweeping Parnu 3-0 in their consolation series. In the opening game, Venky Jois compiled 8 points and 6 rebounds in just 12 minutes off the bench as Tartu rolled to a convincing 72-54 victory. Jois would back up with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks as Tartu snatched a 58-66 road win, helping his side to within one win of third place. Back at home in game 3, it proved to be a much closer contest. However Tartu wrapped up a 66-57 win to clinch the series and third place, matching their third place in the Adriatic League this season. Once again solid, Jois came off the bench to add 6 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block in 17 minutes to wrap up his debut professional season.

Paraadpilt ka - ja nüüd lähme oma medalit nautima! 👊 #samavaim ・・・ @kkparnu näitas sisu, kuid pronks ikkagi Tartu Ülikoolile. Palju õnne! #alexelakml #playoffs #pronks #korvpall #meiemäng

A post shared by Tartu Ülikool (@bctartu) on May 15, 2017 at 12:21pm PDT

Across the Basketball Champions League, FIBA EuropeCup, Adriatic League and Alexela KML, Jois averaged 7.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1 assist and 0.5 blocks across 46 games, 20 of which he started. He also shot 50.2% from the field and will be buoyed by his performances in his first year as a pro.

To round out the French Pro A regular season, David Andersen's ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne finished off strongly with two straight wins to lock up the eighth and last place in the playoffs. At home against Antibes, ASVEL were in control for most of their 75-65 victory. Continuing his role in coming off the bench, Andersen provided a spark in delivering 5 points and 7 rebounds in 16 minutes. On the road, ASVEL experienced a much harder time of things against Châlons-Reims. Neither team gave an inch, as both sides traded the lead throughout. ASVEL managed to score the game-winner down the stretch to win 75-77 and carry some momentum into the playoffs. Andersen was excellent for the winners, adding 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting with 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 17 minutes.

As the 8th seed, defending champions ASVEL have been drawn to face number 1 ranked Monaco in the opening round of the playoffs.

Jonah Bolden continues to build his case to be taken in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft with two very different performances in the Serbian KLS over the past week. In an impressive 22 point win by FMP Belgrade over Borac (83-61), Bolden started and compiled 9 points on 4-0f-9 shooting alongside 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 1 block in 29 minute. It was a performance that highlighted Bolden's all-round capabilities. Next, FMP took on Mega Leks on the road and were derailed 83-65. Mega Leks targeted Bolden from the outset and managed to restrict the 6'10 forward offensively. He would finish with just 1 point, but he was solid defensively in pulling down 10 rebounds with 2 assists and 1 steal (no turnovers). FMP are now in third place and will be looking to improve their record against Vrsac in the next round.

In was an even semifinal showdown between Azad and Naft Abadan in the Iranian SuperLeague semifinals. Despite a mammoth 27 point and 9 rebound haul from AJ Ogilvy, Azad dropped the opening contest 80-74 on the road. Ogilvy was outstanding, connecting on 11-of-19 from the field in his 34 minutes. Game 2 was even more exciting, yet Azad fell agonisingly short, losing 88-86 in overtime. Ogilvy dropped a big 20 point and 14 rebound double-double, also dishing out 2 assists and blocking 2 shots along the way. Naft Abadan's 54 bench points were the big difference, appearing to have more depth than Azad.

Back on their home court, Azad managed to turn their fortunes around to record a convincing 98-89 win in game 3. Once again Ogilvy delivered another double-double, this time 17 points and 14 rebounds with 2 assists and 1 block. Azad made their opponents pay from the line, burying 32-of-35 from the line to record their first win of the series. Game 4 saw Azad tie up the series at 2-2 thanks to an impressive 85-74 win as the home sides continued to prevail. Azad still managed to earn the win despite Ogilvy going down with an injury just 4 minutes into the game (2 points, 4 rebounds).

Ogilvy was back on court for the deciding game 5, and was able to play strongly. Even though he managed to deliver his third double-double of the series, it was not enough to prevent Azad falling short 85-66. Ogilvy's contribution was 12 points, 11 rebounds and 1 blocks, and with the loss, ends his Asian adventure in Iran for the season.

Petrochimi Bandar Imam Hsarbour have booked a place in Iranian SuperLeague grand final after a 3-0 clean sweep of Arak. Petrochimi demolished Arak in the opening game 91-58, with Daniel Johnson not taking to the court. Another big 90-70 victory followed, and while game 3 was closer, the outcome was the same as Arak had no answer to Petrochimi's firepower even without Johnson, winning 67-79.