Basketball - CSKA, Real and Efes reach Euroleague play-offs

Former Euroleague winners Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow advanced to the competition's best-of-five quarter-final play-off series with two games to spare and were joined by Anadolu Efes Istanbul, who are looking for their maiden title.

Reuters
Basketball - CSKA, Real and Efes reach Euroleague play-offs
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CSKA Moscow's Russian center Alexandr Kaun vies with Unicaja's guard Sergi Vidal (AFP)

Six-time champions Panathinaikos Athens stayed on course to join the trio from Group E, while 2010 winners Barcelona, who clinched their berth two weeks ago, stretched their impressive record to 11-1 in Group F.

Four teams from each of the two eight-team pools will advance to the last eight and the ferocious dogfight behind Barca for the remaining three spots in their group continued with Khimki Moscow beating Fenerbahce 99-76 and Maccabi Tel Aviv overcoming holders Olympiakos Piraeus 73-67.

CSKA booked their spot with Thursday's 70-66 win at Unicaja Malaga and the result also sent Real and Efes through despite both suffering losses.

Real, the winners of a record eight titles in Europe's premier club basketball competition, suffered their second successive home defeat after Panathinaikos edged them 74-73 while Efes slipped to a 79-71 loss at Lithuanians Zalgiris Kaunas.

Having established himself as a regular starter this season, CSKA centre Sasha Kaun shone again with a game-high 16 points at Malaga, who stunned the Russian champions in the reverse fixture in Moscow but were unable to repeat the feat in front of their own fans.

"It feels good because it's always hard to play in Malaga as they have great fans but we hung in there and came through," Kaun told the competition's official website.

"The next two games will be crucial, we've got a big home game against Real Madrid coming up and home court advantage in the play-offs is something that's very important at this stage."

Serbia playmaker and former Toronto Raptors forward Sonny Weems added 13 points each for CSKA, who are joint top of their group with Real and Efes on nine wins and three defeats.

Real were in the driving seat to finish top of their group before last week's shock home defeat by Malaga and Thursday's loss to Panathinaikos, who finished the match with 10 of 11 players in the game on the scoresheet.

The home side had the upper hand midway through the third quarter but squad depth made the difference in the final period as Panathinaikos conjured an 8-0 run to swing the match their way in front of 10,000 noisy Madrid fans.

"This is a great win for us, we need one more to get into the play-offs and we should get there when we take on Brose Baskets Bamberg in the next round," said the Greek side's Croatian guard Roko Leni Ukic.

Barcelona continued their surge with a 83-74 home victory over fellow Spaniards Caja Laboral Vitoria after Slovenian forward Erazem Lorbek nailed 16 points, with Juan Carlos Navarro and Croatian centre Ante Tomic adding 14 each.

Towering Pole Maciej Lampe led Caja with 21 points but his valiant solo effort was not enough for the Basque outfit to avoid their sixth defeat in the last eight games, which left them on the brink of an early exit after they won their opening four games in the second group stage of the competition.

"We made a lot of mistakes when we were in the game and had a chance to win, our missed shots cost us between 10 and 15 points and we just didn't do enough to beat Barcelona," Caja coach Zan Tabak said.

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