Barcelona and Real Madrid on collision course in Euroleague basketball, too

Barcelona and Real Madrid each won the opening match of their best-of-five Euroleague quarter-final series on Wednesday night, beginning what could be the path to a Euroleague basketball clasico final.

Barcelona's players celebrate during the Euroleague play-off quarter-finals win over Olympiakos on Wednesday night in Spain. Lluis Gene / AFP / April 15, 2015
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Euroleague favourites Real Madrid and traditional rivals Barcelona made winning starts in the competition’s best-of-five quarter-finals after emphatic performances on Wednesday.

Real, winners of a record eight titles, defeated Anadolu Efes Istanbul 80-71 and twice former champions Barcelona beat Olympiakos 73-57 in a physical game.

Both sides will again be at home in Game 2 on Friday before the series move next week to Turkey and Greece.

Barcelona never looked back after a 17-2 run gave the Catalan giants a 22-8 lead early in the second quarter as they dominated a subdued Olympiakos in all departments.

Barca nailed 10-of-21 three point attempts against only 6-of-22 by their rivals and collected 44 rebounds, 17 more than the Greek side.

Not a single visiting player finished in double-scoring digits while the competition’s all-time leading scorer Juan Carlos Navarro and Slovenian forward Bostjan Nachbar netted 10 each at the other end.

“We are very happy to have made the first step but it will be a more difficult match on Friday and we will have to prepare ourselves for a different game of basketball,” Barcelona’s Polish centre Maciej Lampe told Euroleague television.

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“We missed some easy shots early on but played excellent defence all game long and controlled the boards,” said coach Xavi Pasqual.

Mario Hezonja, widely assumed to be a likely top-10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes, adding three rebounds, two blocks and an assist.

Real gave their fans a scare when they trailed plucky Istanbul side Anadolu Efes by eight points at half-time but turned the tide after the interval as American KC Rivers produced his best performance of the season.

The forward, who averaged 4.9 points in the group stages, amassed a game-high 21 and Mexican centre Gustavo Ayon added 14 to put their team in the driving seat.

CSKA Moscow beat Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce edged holders Maccabi Tel Aviv in the other two play-off series which kicked off on Tuesday and continue on Thursday.

Jan Vesely, the 7ft 0in sixth pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, who spent parts of three NBA seasons with Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets, supplied Fenerbahce with a team-high 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and seven rebounds.

Milos Teodosic, a star at the 2014 Fiba World Cup for runners-up Serbia last September, led CSKA Moscow with 18 points and dished eight assists.

The quarter-final winners will advance to the May 15-17 final four in Madrid.

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