Papanikolaou, Lampe Seal Deciders

05 April 2013

BASKETBALL IN EUROPE

Kostas Papanikolaou, Olympiacos - Euroleague Final 2012
No dunks, but 6-for-6 three-pointers from Kostas Papanikolaou on Thursday to lead Olympiacos into theĀ  Euroleague play-offs

Kostas Papanikolaou and Maciej Lampe stepped up and led Olympiacos Piraeus and Caja Laboral Vitoria, respectively, to vital wins on the final day of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16.

The young Greek international sunk all six of his shots from three-point range, scoring 18 of his game-high 21 points in the decisive second half of Olympiacos' 79-70 win over Khimki Moscow Region at home on Thursday night.

Thanks to this victory, the reigning Euroleague champions took second place in Group F (behind FC Barcelona Regal) and the home-court advantage in the play-offs, where they will face Anadolu Efes Istanbul.

Papanikolaou also led the game in rebounds with 12 boards and added two steals and one assist to register an efficiency index rating of 37, the best performance anywhere in the Euroleague on Thursday night.

The 22-year-old small forward is all but certain to claim Top 16 Game 14 MVP honours when this phase concludes officially on Friday night, with the game between Besiktas JK and Fenerbahce Ulker, whose outcome will not influence the standings.

The win of Olympiacos was harsh on Khimki as it prevented them from reaching the play-offs, despite the Russian outfit's fantastic Euroleague campaign this season.

Last year's Eurocup champions were one of the most entertaining sides to watch in the first two phases of the competition, featuring the talents of Croatian point guard Zoran Planinic and sharp-shooters Vitaly Fridzon of Russia and Petteri Koponen of Finland.

Meanwhile in Vitoria, Lampe did not collect a double-double, but made 12 of his 19 shots from the floor to collect 27 points, more than any player anywhere else in the Top 16 on Thursday, in Caja Laboral's 76-64 win over Montepaschi Siena.

The Polish big man also added nine rebounds as the Basque team dominated the encounter from start to finish and clinched fourth spot in Group F and the last ticket from that pool to the play-offs, knocking out the Italian champions in the process.

10. Alejandro Abrines (Spain)
Alejandro Abrines chose the big stage of the Euroleague to deliver his best performance in a Barcelona shirt on Thursday

Also in Group F action, Barcelona, who had already secured top spot, edged out Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 74-71 in a display of fair-play and forced the Israeli champions to take third place in the group and head into the play-offs without the home-court advantage.

19-year-old Spanish international Alejandro (Alex) Abrines was given playing time and led the winners with 21 points and three rebounds, in his best performance since joining the Catalan giants in the summer from Unicaja Malaga.

In Group E meanwhile, CSKA Moscow took a big 69-63 road win at Panathinaikos to seal first place and relegate the Athenians to fourth spot in the group, while Real Madrid cruised to an 83-66 home victory over Efes, to take second and leave the Istanbul side in third.

Efes are actually the newcomers to the quarter-final play-offs, which this year feature all the clubs that have won the title since the turn of the century.

Barcelona will take on Panathinaikos in a replay of the epic play-off series between the two giants in 2011, when the Greek side cancelled out the Spanish powerhouse's home-court advantage and went on to conquer the Euroleague trophy.

The first game of this series is on Tuesday in Barcelona, while all other match-ups tip off on Wednesday.

CSKA will face Caja Laboral, Olympiacos will go up against Efes while Real are doing battle with Maccabi.


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