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EuroView: Motum and Madgen showdown for Lithuanian title
In Lithuania, an Australian is guaranteed to come away with the Lithuanian title after both Brock Motum's Žalgiris Kaunas and Ben Madgen's Lietkabelis Panevezys advanced to the grand final series.
Defending champion Žalgiris proved far too strong for Neptūnas Klaipeda in game 3 at home, blowing out their opponents 83-60. Motum was one of four players to score in double figures for the home team, adding 12 points (2-of-3 3PT) and 5 rebounds in the commanding win as his side moved to a 2-1 series lead. Žalgiris got it done in the paint, dominating the rebound count and scoring at will at the rim.
In the series clincher on the road, Žalgiris overcame a slow start to ease past Neptūnas 53-69. Playing 20 minutes off the bench, Motum chipped in 8 points and 3 rebounds, helping his side to secure the chance to repeat as league champions.
For Lietkabelis, things were a little bit closer, however the outcome was just the same. In game 3 on the road, the controlled the last three-quarters to record what could be described as the win that ultimately broke their opponent. Lietkabelis were just too strong and composed as they pulled away to record a terrific 73-81 victory. Madgen's on-court leadership was just what Lietkabelis needed and he helped guide them strongly with 9 points and 8 rebounds.
With a chance to book a place in the grand final for the first time in their history, Lietkabelis held off a spirited final quarter challenge to record a ground-breaking 86-77 win. After a tight first half, a third period spurt by Lietkabelis gave them some breathing room and from their they manage to hold on. Madgen was simply superb and delivered on the big stage. The veteran guard poured in game-high 24 points (8-of-14 FG) that included 3-of-6 three-pointers alongside 8 rebounds and 2 assists to book a grand final date with countrymen Motum.
In the French Pro A playoffs, reigning champions ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne opened their quarterfinal series against minor premier Monaco with a 69-72 upset win on the road. They got it down from the charity stripe, making 22-of-24 from the line to earn the thrilling 3 point win. David Andersen came off the bench to contribute 8 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes as his side got off to a great start to opening their title defense.
Monaco had retribution on mind in game 2 as they traveled to ASVEL. In yet another close encounter, it was Monaco who started strongly thanks to a startling 9-17 opening term. ASVEL fought back to close to within 2 points at the final break, but Monaco held on to win 66-71 to lock up the series at 1-1. Andersen was relatively quiet offensively, adding just 5 points and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes. ASVEL will be heading to back to Monaco for game 3 hoping to keep the run of road wins flowing.
AEK Athens entered game 3 of their Greek A1 League semifinal series against Panathaikos Athens with a lot of confidence after their game 2 win. Brad Newley would again start, playing a defensive role in his 20 minutes for 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist, however AEK would go down 81-72. Nick Calathes was outstanding for Panathinaikos, scorching AEK for 26 points in their big win.
Unfortunately for AEK, game 4 was a 67-105 blowout, ensuring Panathinaikos would claim the series 3-1 and advance to the grand final series. Panathinaikos dominated inside and out, out-rebounding AEK 39-22 and shooting 13-of-23 from beyond the arc compared to just 2-of-15 by AEK. While Newley would have liked to have seen more than his 6 minutes on court, in many ways it was good that he didn't in the 38-point loss. It was a tough finish to the season for AEK who performed strongly and have Panathinaikos a run for their money.
Ryan Broekhoff and Lokomotiv Kuban commence their VTB United League semifinal series against CSKA Moscow this week.
Over in Serbia, NBA-bound Jonah Bolden impressed for FMP Belgrade in their 83-63 demolition of Vrsac. The 6'10 forward was one of four players to score in double figures, gathering 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in another eye-catching performance. Against league-leader Crvena Zvezda, FMP trailed by 15 heading into the final quarter. A blistering final quarter run saw them close in on what would have been a miraculous comeback win, but the home side held on to prevail 77-69. Bolden was again very active, scoring 11 points with 4 rebounds and 2 assists, but demonstrated his defensive abilities with an amazing 6 steals! FMP remains locked in 3rd place tied with Mega Leks with a 6-4 record.