One step before the Final Four

The Euroleague’s quarterfinal best-of-three playoffs series begins tonight with two Greek basketball clubs, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, hoping to make it through to the prestigious competition’s Final Four tournament, which will be held in Athens from May 4 to 6. Panathinaikos, one of the competition’s most convincing performers in the lead-up to the quarterfinals, goes into its best-of-three series against Dynamo Moscow with the home-ground advantage, awarded for the Greek team’s top-spot placing in the previous stage. Panathinaikos won its first five games in the Top 16 stage before dropping its final game in Barcelona after having already secured Group F’s top spot. For Dynamo Moscow, whose roster features two Greek players, Antonis Fotsis and Lazaros Papadopoulos, getting to the quarterfinals proved a tougher affair. The Russian club placed second in Group G after clinching victory from Benetton Treviso in overtime in the final round of group play. The Greek-Russian encounter will bring face to face a pair of mastermind coaches, Zeljko Obradovic of Panathinaikos and Dusan Ivkovic of Dynamo, who have worked together at the helm of the Yugoslavian national team. »For Panathinaikos, the games against Dynamo Moscow are the final obstacles before the Final Four. That’s how we’re treating them,» said Obradovic. »We’re up against a very capable team that we followed in all its six Top 16 games.» Dynamo is expected to try and keep the game’s pace slow in an effort to hinder Panathinaikos’s explosive attacking play. The Greek team goes into tonight’s encounter with a 9-1 home record this season, while Dynamo’s record away from home has been sturdy. The Russian team has won five of its last seven games away from home. Olympiakos, the country’s other quarterfinalist, will face Spain’s Tau Ceramica, undefeated in the Top 16 stage, away, in their best-of-three series’s opening game tonight. The Spanish team will strive to reach its third successive Final Four series. Olympiakos has not made it through to the Final Four since 1999. Olympiakos and Tau Ceramica met in the Euroleague’s first stage of group play earlier this season, with each team taking its home encounter.

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