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EuroView: Motum one win away from back-to-back titles
Brock Motum has gained the upper hand against Ben Madgen in the Lithuanian grand final series, while David Andersen will play in a deciding game 5 to secure a chance to defend his French Pro A title with ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne.
In the Lithuanian LKL grand final, Lietkabelis Panevezys tied up the best-of-seven series at 1-1 with Žalgiris Kaunas after an impressive game 2 win behind the stellar play of Madgen. The dynamic guard piled on a team-high 18 points (4-of-7 FG) that included 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Playing at home, Lietkabelis trailed by 7 heading into the final term before unleashing a blistering 29-19 final quarter charge to earn a narrow 86-83 win. For Žalgiris, Motum gathered 7 points and 2 rebounds in their loss.
Back on the home floor, Žalgiris were in complete control of game 3 and extended the margin throughout the game en route to registering a dominant 97-58 victory. They did the damage in the paint, doubling Lietkabelis' interior scoring with 44 points. Motum was one of 5 players to score in double figures for Žalgiris, adding 13 points (6-of-9 FG) in 20 minutes off the bench. After his game 2 performance, Madgen was a marked man and was all but hustled out of the game, contributing just 4 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Desperate to lock the series back up, Lietkabelis hosted game 3 and right from the outset looked strong, opening with a positive 23-17 first term. However Žalgiris lifted behind the hot-shooting of Motum, outscoring Lietkabelis 47-29 across the middle two periods to head into the last quarter 12 points ahead. While the last period turned into an ugly arm wrestle, it was the defending champions who emerged with an important 59-72 road win, inching to within 1 win from going back-to-back. Motum was outstanding, pouring in an equal game-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting including 2-of-3 from long-range and 6 rebounds, to help guide his team to victory. Žalgiris once again did a great job defensively on restricting Madgen, holding him to just 4 points on 1-of-7 shooting. He did manage 4 rebounds and 2 assists, but for Lietkabelis to fight back, they will need to find a way to help free him up for the must-win game 5.
Trailing CSKA Moscow 0-2 in the best-of-five VTB United League semifinals, Lokomotiv Kuban headed home for a must-win game 3 to keep their finals aspirations alive. CSKA were in ominous form early, opening up a small lead and seemingly in cruising to a series clinching win. Lokomotiv entered the final period trailing by 21, yet that did not deter them from one final charge with their season on the line. While their furious late game rally saw them close the margin, they eventually still fell short 66-74 and endured an unflattering 0-3 series loss. Ryan Broekhoff ended another very good season by providing 8 points and 2 rebounds in 27 minutes. Across the VTB United League season, he averaged 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1 assist per game while shooting 54.8% from inside the arc and 44.4% from beyond it (10th in the league).
In the French Pro A semifinals, ASVEL built upon their game 1 win with another thrilling victory, this time a 73-74 road win to take a 2-0 series lead over Strasbourg. While nothing separated the sides in the first term, the home side pulled away in the second for a 14 point half time lead. ASVEL responded strongly after the main break to close to within 3 at the final change. From there both teams traded blows to the final whistle. ASVEL were brilliant in shooting from three-point territory, landing a myriad of big shots. However Strasbourg had the final possession and a change to win, however despite a mad scramble and a number of second chance looks, ASVEL held on to record an important 1-point win. Veteran Andersen played an important support role, adding 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 16 minutes off the bench.
Game 3 saw Strasbourg bounce back, as they returned the favour in winning 64-67 on ASVEL's home court. This was an even closer contest, with neither team able to gain a match-winning advantage throughout the contest that had the fans on the edge of their seats. Strasbourg though remained composed down the stretch to hold on for the 3-point win. Andersen was again involved, gathering 7 points and 5 rebounds as the series headed to game 4.
Desperate to force a deciding game 5, Strasbourg needed to win on the road again to make that a reality. ASVEL made good strides in the first half to open up a 34-27 half time lead. However it was the visitors who came home strongly in the second half, outscoring ASVEL by 11 points to win 64-68 and square the series up at 2-2. ASVEL hit just one three-pointer in the contest compared to six from Strasbourg, arguably proving the difference. Andersen was quiet offensively, adding just 2 points on 1-of-6 shooting with 4 rebounds in 16 minutes. the closely fought series comes down to game 5 which will be hosted by Strasbourg.
In the final two rounds of the Serbian Superliga, third placed FMP Belgrade split their games. Taking on second ranked Partizan Belgrade in the local derby, FMP could not halt a sensational shooting display from Partizan who would run away with a 71-85 road win. After a brilliant breakout season, Jonah Bolden experienced a rare quiet night, collecting just 6 points with 2 rebounds and 1 block in 21 minutes of action. Partizan employed a successful strategy in slowing the athletic Bolden, a key factor in their resounding late-season win.
Bolden bounced back quickly from his quiet outing, helping FMP finish the second stage of the regular season with a tougher than expected 71-73 road win over Borac. The 6'10 forward once again demonstrated his versatility, connecting on 4 three-pointers on his way to scoring a game-high 18 points (6-of-13 FG) with 7 rebounds. FMP finished the regular season in third place and will face Partizan in the semifinals. Bolden will need to break out of the shackles that Partizan employed in their last outing if FMP are to have any chance of overcoming their semifinal foe.