BBL Playoffs Review: Quarterfinals

08.03.2015

Only four teams are left in the run for the ultimate award, as the Quarterfinals are just over! We witnessed a plethora of impressive games, including a decisive overtime and a big comeback. Check out everything that’s happened in the past week in the BBL Playoffs Review: Quarterfinals!

LAST 4! Two Lithuanian clubs and one team representing Latvia and Estonia are all among the last four participants. And all four clubs were the highest ranked after the regular season! Can last season’s champs Siauliai repeat their success, or will Juventus, Rock or Ventspils dethrone them?

COMEBACK. After losing the first leg matchup versus Pieno Zvaigzdes by 11 points, Juventus had a tough task ahead of them. Nevertheless, powered by a 1500-strong army of fans, the Utena side managed to blow past their rivals by 20 points in the return game.

PLAYOFF BASKETBALL. Gritty and rough, that’s how playoff basketball should be played. Compared to the Eighthfinals stage, the scoring during the Quarterfinals has dropped from 158.5 to 142.5 points per game. A real example of defensive basketball was the first game between TU/Rock and Liepaja/Triobet, where the teams combined for just 108 points – the lowest score this season.

OVERTIME DRAW? Yes, you read that right. The game between Tartu Rock and Liepaja/Triobet went right down to the wire and even an extra five minutes were played. Yet, the game still ended in a draw, which was clearly more useful for the Estonians, as they had a 10-point advantage after the first game.

REMATCH. Three of the four teams apart from Juventus were part of the Olybet BBL Cup at the start of the season, so there are a couple of looming rematches. However, they’ll happen either in the final or in the battle for third place.

DERBY. It’s a Lithuanian derby in one of the semifinals, as Juventus face off against last season’s champions Siauliai. These two clubs have met three times already in the Lithuanian Basketball League and the Utena side took two very narrow victories.

Rolandas Alijevas of Siauliai is the MVP of the Quarterfinals after he had a season night in the opening game and followed it up with another solid performance. The Lithuanian point guard averaged 16.5 points, 3 rebounds and 7.5 assists in the series against Lietkabelis.

Michael Dixon Jr. was a very big part of the first win in the series and was pretty much the only bright spot in an otherwise terrible performance in the second leg of Pasvalys’ series against Juventus. The American averaged 16 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the two games.

Nikolaos Gkikas had two more rock-solid games to add to the total, as he led Ventspils past Pyrinto with averages of 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists – all in a very efficient manner.

Next up in the countdown is Juventus’ Egidijus Dimsa, who played a key role in the club’s turnaround. The forward averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds during the Quarterfinals.

After a below average first leg game, Simas Buterlevicius bloomed in Juventus’ comeback, where he scored 19 points and tore down 9 boards. The swingman averaged 15.5 points, 6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the series.

Juventus' home walls lead series' comeback

05.03.2015

UTENA – The Lithuanian derby between Juventus and Pieno Zvaigzdes was truly the cherry on top of this year’s Quarterfinals. While Pasvalys gave them a scare late on, the home side managed to stay calm and took an 85-65 (20-13; 22-21; 18-16; 25-15) win to compensate for the first leg loss.

Pasvalys had won the first meeting between these two clubs 76-65, so they were looking at a double-digit advantage even prior to tip-off.

Juventus gave Pasvalys a cold shower with a 9-0 start to the game. While the visitors managed to answer back, soon they faced a double-digit deficit, 20-8. Nevertheless, they returned five points in the final minute and finished the quarter down by 7.

The two teams went back and forth throughout the second quarter but neither team made any significant moves towards the Semifinal.

It seemed that Juventus turned on a higher gear early after the break and soon built a big 18-point lead. Nevertheless, Pieno Zvaigzdes turned up the intensity late in the third quarter and quickly cut the deficit to just ten. Since Pasvalys won the first leg by 11, they were still up by one on the combined scoreboard. A truly nerve-wrecking quarter awaited.

Pasvalys opened the quarter with a wide-open three-pointer and continued their efficient full-court press. However once the home side managed to get past mid-court, a couple of three-point plays allowed Juventus to reestablish a 14-point advantage.

Pieno Zvaigzdes seemed to back to their chaotic game, hoisting up three after three after three, despite not getting anything to fall and Juventus made the most of it. After an unsportsmanlike foul, Juventus already had an 18-point advantage with only over a minute on the clock.

Rashaun Broadus sealed the deal with a highlight-worthy slalom throughout the whole court and a beautiful play to push the advantage to 20. Juventus controlled the ending of the game and make it through to the semis!

The short-handed Juventus threw only eight men into the battle and two of them didn’t even finish the game. Nevertheless, Simas Buterlevičius led the undermanned team with 19 points and 9 rebounds, while Egidijus Dimsa added 16 and 6, all in just 18 minutes. Saulius Kulvietis ended the game with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, while Arvydas Siksnius had 12 points including some clutch baskets in the closing quarter. Rashaun Broadus was also in double-digit scoring with 10 points and 6 rebounds.

For the losing side, Michael Dixon Jr. was really the one of few brighter spots in an otherwise gloomy game. The American had 19 points and 7 rebounds and also drew 10 fouls. Aidas Viskontas added 12 points to the total, while Tauras Jogela was third in scoring with just 8 points.

Siauliai lock in Semifinals spot

04.03.2015

PANEVEZYS – Siauliai celebrated another victory in the Quarterfinals series against Lietkabelis, taking a 78-66 (17-16; 9-18; 27-14; 25-18) victory on Wednesday evening.

The visitors had already achieved a safe 22-point advantage after the first game, so it wasn’t a do or die situation for them, but nevertheless, they came out strong.

The first ten minutes proved it would be a tough fight for both teams and the two teams were separated by only one point. After the first ten minutes the Lietkabelis dominance started, as they ran off to a big run.

The Panevezys side had already gotten back into the series, but after the break Siauliai finally woke up and were already ahead after three quarters, with a 53-48 lead.

It was all settled in the final quarter, when Siauliai set up another run and reached a double-digit advantage.

Rokas Giedraitis was the leading scorer for the newly-baked semifinalists with 15 points. Gintaras Leonavicius chipped in with 13, while Julius Jucikas and Jeffery Allen Jr. added 11 points each, while the latter also had 9 rebounds. Rolandas Alijevas finished the game with 10 points.

Evaldas Zabas was scored 15 points, Jurica Zuza chipped in with 14 points, while Dainius Salenga had 12 points to his name.

Ventspils dominant in Tampere

04.03.2015

TAMPERE – After another dominant fourth quarter, Ventspils made sure they would become part of the four best teams in the Baltic Basketball League. They defeated Pyrinto 78-59 (12-17; 11-14; 25-15; 30-13) and will face Tartu Rock in the Semifinals.

The game was neck to neck for the lion's share of the contest, but the Latvians trailed by five points after the first ten minutes and were already down by 8 at halftime.

However, everything turned around after halftime, when Ventspils absolutely dominated on both sides of the court. They won the third quarter by 10 and bashed their opponents by 17 in the closing quarter. Pyrinto already faced a double-digit deficit mid fourth quarter and had not much hope of victory.

Ventspils cruised to the finish line and celebrated another top four berth.

Ventspils was led by Andrejs Grazulis, who scored 16 points and added 6 rebounds. Artis Ate scored 15 points, while Kristaps Janicenoks and Harvey Grant scored 14 points. Nikolaos Gkikas chipped in with 12.

Bryan Hopkins had 16 points for Pyrinto, while Damon Williams added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Overtime draw allows Rock to advance

03.03.2015

LIEPAJA – We’ve got ourselves the first Semifinalist and it’s a team from Estonia! After a dramatic ending to the series and an extra five minutes of battle, TU/Rock managed to get through despite not even securing a victory! They tied with Liepaja/Triobet for a 71-71 (13-13; 21-15; 22-14; 14-18; 11-1) score in the return game.

While the first game ended with a 59-49 Tartu victory, it was definitely not a margin that could automatically decide the fate of the series.

The home team tipped the game off strong and got a small lead after a 7-0 run. However, it was very quickly answered and the two sides finished the quarter on even terms.

Liepaja/Triobet took initiative in the second quarter and got closer and closer to their opponents. Going into the break they were already up by six in the game.

Tartu seemed a bit lost in the second half and couldn’t manage to break through the Latvian defense. Backed by an army of fans, Liepaja/Triobet shot ahead and finally jumped ahead in the series’ combined result. Three quarters through, the home team had a 14-point advantage, and were now the leading team in the series.

Liepaja had already settled down with a 16-point advantage, but then came Rock’s three point hail, which put them back ahead in the combined score. Both teams seemed to play nervously and kept turning the ball over and forcing difficult shots, so the gap stayed around the ten point mark.

After Janar Talts dropped a three-pointer to reduce the deficit to eight for Tartu, Mareks Jurevicus responded with a trey of his own, returning the one-point lead to the Latvians. After a pair of successful trips from both sides, the teams were forced to play overtime, since the series’ score was all tied at 119.

Tartu Rock dominated the backboards in the extra five minutes and locked down on the defensive end, only allowing 1 point throughout the whole overtime and deservedly jumped on to the Semifinals stage.

Tanel Sokk played nearly the whole game and was the initiator on the offensive end with 18 points. Augustas Peciukevicius chipped in with 14 points and 6 rebounds, while Janar Talts was the third player in double-digit scoring for Tartu with 11 points.

Mareks Jurevicus was wonderful for the Latvians with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Lauris Blaus added 14 points and 9 rebounds, while Dwayne Johnson finished off with 11 points. Edgaras Zelionis ended the game with 10 points.

Pieno Zvaigzdes strong in Quarterfinals opener

02.03.2015

PASVALYS – Pieno Zvaigzdes took revenge for the Lithuanian Cup loss, as they managed to bruise past rivals Juventus 76-65 (22-13; 22-23; 15-16; 17-13) in the BBL Quarterfinals on Monday evening.

Pieno Zvaigzdes led throughout the whole game and most of that was due to the work in the first quarter. The home side ran ahead in the middle of the opening frame, when they set up an 8-0 run, allowing them to build a 9-point advantage.

The margin had reached 15 in the middle of the second quarter, but Juventus managed to close out the quarter solidly and got the deficit back to just 8.

It seemed the game would have a very exciting ending when Juventus opened the second half with 5 straight points and cut the gap to just three. However, a series of missed free-throws stopped them from coming any closer. The home side set up a couple of successful trips down the court and made some breathing room.

The game was sealed in the first part of the closing period, when Pieno Zvaigzdes mounted an 11-0 run and amassed a 16-point advantage. Juventus made the task at home just slightly easier in the final minutes of the quarter, as they cut the gap to 11.

Osvaldas Olisevicius was the key gunner for Pieno Zvaigzdes, as he scored 15 points. Michael Dixon Jr. added 13 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, while Alex Oriakhi finished the game with 12 points to his name. February’s MVP Evaldas Kairys played just 12 minutes before fouling out and managed to collect 7 points and 6 rebounds.

Nikita Barinov scored 13 points for Juventus and was the leader in this category. Rashaun Broadus and Simas Buterlevicius added 12 points apiece, while Edgaras Stanionis chipped in with 10. Egidijus Dimsa ended the game with 8 points and 10 rebounds.

Pasvalys' Kairys named February MVP

27.02.2015

For the second time in a row, it’s a Pieno Zvaigzdes’ player raking in the monthly honors, as big man Evaldas Kairys became February’s Most Valuable Player. Pasvalys achieved two stellar victories in the Eighthfinals series against Tarvas and Kairys played a vital role in both games.

The 24-year-old Lithuanian filled the stat-sheet with averages of 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He also shot at an incredible 73.9% clip and was responsible for 27 ranking points per game.

The center’s best game was the second leg of the series, which Pasvalys won 89-68, while Kairys recorded team-highs in both points and rebounds with respectively 21 and 10. What’s even more impressive is that it all happened in just 19 minutes!

Pieno Zvaigzdes now look to face Lithuanian rivals Juventus in the Quarterfinals in what is sure to be an impressive matchup. It will be the 4th and 5th times the clubs face off this season, as Pasvalys celebrated 2 victories in 3 of the Lithuanian Basketball League clashes.

The MVP award will be presented to Evaldas on the 2nd of March before the game in Pasvalys.

Ventspils barely escape Pyrinto's storm

26.02.2015

It was perhaps the most entertaining piece of basketball we witnessed in the Quarterfinals, as Latvian powerhouse Ventspils barely held on to victory against Pyrinto. The game was neck-to-neck for the lion’s share of the game, but the home side managed to get away with the 70-64 (20-19; 20-11; 10-21; 20-13) victory.

It was a nip-and-tuck battle in the first ten minutes and while Pyrinto did have a small advantage, halfway through the quarter, Ventspils responded with an 8-0 stretch to pull ahead by five. Nevertheless, by the time the period was over, the teams were separated by just a single point.

The home side managed to pull ahead in the second quarter, when they reached their first double-digit advantage. A 10-point wall was between them and the Finns and clearly, both coaches had something to talk about at halftime.

Right out of the gates, it seemed that Pyrinto was a completely different team, as they started operating extremely efficiently on both sides of the court. They managed to set up a 17-3 run and going into the final quarter, were already ahead by one.

Ventspils retook the lead just seconds inside the final frame. The margin had reached six, and then slid back down to just one. It seemed Pyrinto weren’t about to risk it all and were playing for the score instead of the win in the final minute, but Nikolaos Gkikas pushed the margin back to six with a dagger from downtown right in the defenders face.

Kristaps Janicenoks was the clear leader for the Latvians with 21 points in his account. Martins Meiers and Nikolaos Gkikas added 10 points and 4 rebounds each, while the Greek also dished out 7 assists.

Bryan Hopkins led Pyrinto with 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Tyrone Kent added 11 points. Damon Williams scored 10 points, secured 5 rebounds and recorded 4 dimes before fouling out. David Jackson ended the game with 9 points.

TU/Rock lock down Liepaja in Tartu

26.02.2015

Although the opening game of the Quarterfinals was very high-paced, we saw some very different basketball in Tartu. TU/Rock managed to slip past Liepaja/Triobet in a very low-scoring game, taking a 59-49 lead in the series.

It was a neck-to-neck affair for the most part of the opening frame, yet with two minutes on the clock, the home side managed to set themselves up with a 7-0 run that just raised the noise in the arena.

It was a pretty calm second quarter as well, as neither side managed to tear the game wide open. Nevertheless, a cold-hearted three-pointer by Valmo Kriisa pushed the gap to 8 before halftime.

Liepaja/Triobet came firing back in the third quarter and a 7-0 run cut the gap to just one. But that’s when TU/Rock started knocking down the long-ball. They got 3 shots from downtown to fall and pushed the margin back to double-digits.

Liepaja didn’t manage to give the Estonians a run for their money in the final minutes and will be going back home with a 10-point deficit.

Janar Talts was the only figure in double-digit scoring for TU/Rock, as he tallied 12 points and 6 rebounds. Valmo Kriisa added 9 points, while Augustas Peciukevicius, Karolis Petrukonis and Joosep Toome ended the game with 7 apiece.

Lauris Blaus scored 15 points and tore down 8 rebounds for the Latvians, while Andrius Mazutis joined him with 10 points and 6 rebounds. Edgaras Zelionis finished the game with 7 points in his account.

TÜ/Rock head coach Gert Kullamäe:
„It was a classic playoff game – close, low score and emphasis on defense. We played well in defense and managed to keep their key players from scoring too much. But we also made many easy mistakes and missed too many easy shots. That in mind we have to be satisfied with the ten-point lead. But to advance to the next round we have to shoot better and reduce turnovers.”

Liepaja Triobet head coach Uvis Helmanis:
“As games go, it was ugly basketball. For us to have a chance in Liepaja we have to shoot much better. Today some our main scorers ended up in single digits. I’m glad it was only the first half and we are certainly going to play better at home.”

Siauliai blast past Lietkabelis in first leg

25.02.2015

SIAULIAI – The first Quarterfinals matchup was as exciting as it gets for two quarter, as two Lithuanian foes faced in the first leg of the series. Siauliai, however, managed to come out on top after a dominant second half, topping Lietkabelis 103-81 (29-22; 16-24; 31-19; 25-13).

The home side ran off very early with terrific play all-around. They already held a 15-point advantafe just five minutes inside the opening quarter, however Lietkabelis were not about to give up just yet. A series of efficient trips down the court helped the visitors cut the deficit in half and the scoreboard stated a 29-22 lead for Siauliai.

The high scoring didn't stop in the second frame. Led by Vytas Sulskis, Siauliai held on to the advantage for half a quarter, but Jurica Zuza started dominating in the post and managed to single-handedly bring the visitors within one point. Dainius Salenga's mid-range jump shot closed out the quarter and gave Lietkabelis their first lead of the game.

Lietkabelis had already emerged as the front-runner, when they jumped ahead by six. However, Rokas Giedraitis answered back with a three-pointer and the visitors were also 'awarded' an unsportsmanlike foul just half a minute later. Siauliai once again shot ahead after a 10-0 run. Rolandas Alijevas' season night carried the home side's offense throughout the third quarter, while Jeffery Allen swatted away shots left and right to control the defensive end. It was a 76-65 lead for Siauliai before the final quarter.

The home team was beyond perfect in the start of the fourth quarter, as they won the initial two and a half minutes 15-2 and reached a mid-thirties advantage. Nothing out of the ordinary happened during the final minutes and Siauliai celebrated a huge victory.

Rolandas Alijevas had a season night, as he reached new heights in both points and assists with respectively 23 and 10. Rokas Giedraitis and Vytas Sulskis added 17 apiece, while the latter also contributed 9 rebounds. Ryan Olander and Julius Jucikas ended the game with 13 each, while Gintaras Leonavicius finished off with 11.

For the losing side, it was Jurica Zuza leading the way, as he made his first 7 shots and ended the game with 17 points. Evaldas Zabas contributed 15, while Arnas Labuckas, Dainius Salenga and Jakov Vladovic all chipped in with 12 points each.