Fenerbahçe reaches Euroleague knockout stages
BELGRADE - Reuters
AA photoFenerbahçe Ülker reached the Euroleague knockout stages with a 98-77 home rout of Emporio Armani Milan while triple former winners Olympiakos Piraeus suffered a 74-73 setback at Laboral Kutxa Vitoria on March 20.
In the day's other fixture, Panathinaikos blew away already-qualified Real Madrid 85-69 to boost their hopes of progressing with the second group stage heading for a frantic finale in the last three rounds.
An expensively-assembled Fenerbahçe team celebrated their eighth straight win thanks to a majestic second-half performance as Serbia guard Bogdan Bogdanovic scoring a game-high 25 points.
"I wish to thank the fans for lifting us after we trailed at halftime and we played very good basketball after the break," Fenerbahçe's Serb coach Zeljko Obradovic, who has won a record eight Euroleague titles with four different clubs, told Euroleague television.
Czech forward Jan Vesely amassed 14 points and nine rebounds for Fenerbahçe, who are aiming to become the first Turkish side to reach the Final Four.
Olympiakos, who won successive titles in 2012 and 2013 after their maiden triumph in 1997, missed a chance to progress with three games to spare after playmaker Olivier Lafayette's last-gasp shot missed the target.
Vitoria's Mike James carried the Basque outfit with 17 points and Latvia forward Davis Bertans added 15 to keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Six-time winners Panathinaikos edged closer to qualifying as Nikos Pappas enjoyed an almost flawless night, nailing all his seven shots from the field and seven of eight from the free-throw line to finish on 22 points.
"Real Madrid was the team that impressed me more than any other before this game but tonight we managed to dominate the court and play our best game of the season so far," said Panathinaikos coach Dusko Ivanovic.
Real and Barcelona have advanced from Group E while CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahçe are through from Group F, leaving four more knockout stage berths to be won in the last three rounds.
The top four from each section will progress to the best-of-five quarter-finals, whose winners qualify for the May 15-17 Final Four in Madrid.