EuroView: Motum rested as Madgen and McCarron start playoffs run
Welcome to the most interesting time in European basketball - the playoffs! A handful of Aussies started their run successfully, while some of them ae yet to commence their playoff run.
Lietuvos rytas Vilnius started its Lithuanian basketball league quarterfinal series with a bang. The second seeded team beat up Juventus Utena by 33 points (97-64) at home, but struggled in their second game. Nevertheless Rimas Kurtinaitis’ players came away with a 79-78 victory in game 2 and are now just one win away from reaching the semifinals.
Ben Madgen started both games, playing 25 minutes in each victory. He scored 8 points, but made just 2-8 from beyond the arc in their big home win, and added 7 points on 3-9 shooting just a few days later.
It is likely to that the series deciding game will be played on Saturday. Lietuvos rytas will face the winner of third seeded Neptunas Klaipeda or sixth seeded Pieno zvaigzdes Pasvalys in the semi's, with that series currently tied at 1-1.
Mitch McCarron had much easier task as Petrol Olimpija won both semifinal games to advance to the grand final in Slovenia.
Olimpija won against Ragoska 92-79 on Wednesday and then closed out with a second victory 73-67 three days later. The Boomers guard played 27 minutes, scoring 7 points and handing out a team-high 6 assists in the first game. In the series clinching win, he posted 11 points in 32 minutes of action. The next opponent for Olimpija in a best-of-five grand final series will be Krka.
After a few exhausting weeks in a row, Brock Motum enjoyed a chance to rest before the most important weeks of the Turkish Basketball League season. Despite their efficient scorer sitting out, Anadolu Efes Istanbul finished the regular season with a win 91-85 against Galatasaray Istanbul, in turn edging their rivals out of the playoffs. Anadolu will have to battle against EuroCup 2018 winners Darussafaka Istanbul in the first round of the playoffs, a side who suffered a loss in the last round and finished the regular season in the 6th spot. Their first game will be played on 22nd of May.
An almost identical scenario happened to Ryan Broekhoff who is still getting ready for his return from injury. Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar finished the season in the third place, but will have to face EuroLeague-caliber opponent Khimki Moscow Region in their first round playoff match-up. Khimki are being accused by other teams for losing their last few games on purpose to avoid CSKA Moscow in VTB United League semifinal. Why is it important for all teams? Because CSKA has already secured a place in EuroLeague for next season, and the VTB United League finalist will automatically earn a place too; so everyone’s main goal in Russia is to get through the semis to qualify for EuroLeague.
Less drama was in Israel, where Maccabi Tel Aviv finally grabbed two wins in a row. For Johan Bolden, last week was even better, as Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Bryan Colangelo publicly confirmed that the team is interested to bring Aussie back to NBA for next season. After those words of encouragement, the power forward had compiled 4 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes in a victorious game against Ironi Nahariya (94-87) before scoring 10 points even though he played just 12 minutes in a win against Maccabi Rishon Lezion (84-73). Maccabi is sharing first place with UNET Holon with one game left to play in the regular season.
Meanwhile the Aussies in Serbia were unfortunately almost invisible this past week. Despite the fact that he played total of 46 minutes, Mirko Djeric had just 3 points and 2 assists across two games combined and his side Vrsac had to handle 2 losses. Isaac Humphries didn't bode well either, providing just 4 points and 2 rebounds in first game and failing to trouble the statisticians in his second outing. Yet at least Humphries' side FMP celebrated two wins.