The Turkish Airlines EuroLeague kicked off the weekend with a bang as four teams to took to the hardwood on May 18th with the hopes of punching a ticket to the finals on May 20th. After the dust settled, Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul prevailed over Zalgiris Kaunas 76-67 to move on and be able to defend their crown. Real Madrid dug deep to upset CSKA Moscow 92-83 and will face off against Fenerbahce.
Fenerbahce vs. Zalgiris 76-67
Fenerbahce brought some energy with them in this game and got off to a solid start. Zal, on the other hand, was slow to heat up. Fenerbahce’s Luigi Datome and Zalgiris’s Kevin Pangos exchanged baskets early.
Lithuania’s Green Machine would finally get into gear in the second half and their defense managed to slow down Fenerbahce. From there the game became more of a grind and was more in the wheelhouse of Zalgiris. Their defense kept their opponents within reach but Datome powered up his team’s offense again with back-to-back threes and regain control of the game.
The last few possessions boiled to down clock management, fouls and free throws, which went the way of Fenerbahce. The dying seconds of the game rolled through with a Zalgiris turnover which allowed Fenerbahce to finish as victors 76-67.
Fenerbahce advances and will have the amazing and rare opportunity to cement their legacy as back-to-back Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champions. It won’t come easy though, as they have to get past a surging Real Madrid in order to accomplish the feat.
CSKA Moscow vs. Real Madrid 83-92
It was a timely and heroic return for Real Madrid’s Sergio Llull, who was sidelined for most of the regular season due to injury. This was the game where his team needed him the most and he delivered. Llull and Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic provided Real Madrid with a lethal combination that helped them dictate the tempo of the game, which in turn translated into the 92-83 win. Both players led the Spanish powerhouse with 16 points each, but it was their ability to overcome CSKA’s attempt at pressure defense via traps and full-court presses made a huge difference.
Real Madrid was allowed to play to its strengths and their unselfish style of up-tempo basketball was executed well. Their balanced attack managed to overcome a game-high 20 points by CSKA’s Nando de Colo. Will Clyburn had the unsavory task of guarding Luka Doncic. In the end, it would be Doncic, who played some excellent defense, that would get the better of Clyburn, limiting him to 5-of-17 shooting from the field.
The win gives Real Madrid a shot at avenging their 2016-17 semifinal loss to Fenerbahce in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague playoffs. This time though, it will be for all the marbles, so expect both clubs to leave it all on the line for nothing less than pride and glory.