EUROLEAGUE FINAL EIGHT SET

el playoffs 2013

The Euroleague title race is down to eight teams. And the play-off match-ups on the road to Final Four in London have set up some intriguing ties.

An exciting finish to the playoff races highlighted a dramatic two hours on Thursday, after which eight teams now have their minds set on their opponents in the best-of-five playoffs, which begin next week, while the two teams that had chances to advance and lost go home.

In one half of the draw, FC Barcelona will square off against Panathinaikos Athens, Real Madrid clash with Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv. While in other half, CSKA Moscow meet Caja Laboral Vitoria,  and reigning champions Olympiacos Piraeus go up against against Anadolu Efes Istanbul.

CSKA Moscow edged Panathinaikos 69-63 in the Greek capital to clinch first place in Group E. Viktor Khryapa stood out with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists for the Russian champs, who enter the playoffs with a six-game winning streak. The game was close till the end, but CSKA made free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.

Real Madrid routed Anadolu Efes 86-66 to claim second place. Rudy Fernandez dominated early with 3 first-quarter three-pointers and Sergio Llull took over when Efes threatened a second-half comeback. Llull finished with 16 points and 6 assists for Los Blancos, who stemmed a three-game losing streak.

Zalgiris Kaunas bested Brose Baskets Bamberg 90-81 to finish its season on a winning note. Ksistof Lavrinovic turned in a great performance with 20 points and 8 boards for the Lithuanian champs. Bamberg finished a hard luck Top 16 without a victory. Alba Berlin beat Unicaja Malaga 55-68 in Spain to go out in style.

Alba took charge early and never looked back, with Unicaja never getting within single digits after the first quarter. Jekel Foster and Derrick Byars combined for 25 points off the bench to lead the winners.

In Group F, Olympiacos knocked out BC Khimki 79-70. Kostas Papanikolaou starred with 21 points on 6-of-6 three point shooting plus 12 rebounds and 2 blocks to pace the winners. The Reds dominated early, but Zoran Planinic led Khimki back to to it late in the third quarter. Papanikolaou helped keep Olympiacos in front with two more triples before his coup de grace – a four-point play to restore a double-digit lead with a little over four minutes remaining and Khimki never got closer than 7 the rest of the way.

Caja Laboral blasted Montepaschi Siena 76-64 to grab the final playoff berth from the group and leave the Italian champs on the outside looking in. Maciej Lampe peppered the nets for 27 points to lead Vitoria, which led by 12 at halftime and coasted the rest of the way. Barcelona downed Maccabi Electra 74-71 behind a brilliant showing from young Alex Abrines, who amassed 21 points in 21 minutes off the bench.

Maccabi, which needed to win to get homecourt advantage in the play-offs, had the ball in the final seconds, but a Devin Smith turnover gave the victory to the hosts.

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