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Match 3 of the play-offs previews - Apr 17, 2011

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The day of Monday, 18th of April schedules the 3rd matches from the play-off and play-outs of the Romanian championship, edition 2010-2011.
In the play-offs, CSU Asesoft Ploiesti, the winner of the regular season, goes to Pitesti to play against BCM Pitesti, the team which caught the last position which granted a place in the upper phase of the championship, rank 8. After the 2 matches played in Ploiesti, the winners of the regular season took the lead 2-0, having confirmed their status of a very powerful team on home ground. Even that one may think that Ploiesti had an easy mission, things didnt look so. In the first match, Pitesti managed to keep the pace, but thanks to 2 strong quarter, the second and the fourth, 27-16 and 29-18, and thanks to a good performance of Catalin Burlacu, Ploiesti managed to win the first match score 97-80. Things looked different in the second match. A much more motivated team of Ploiesti took the initiative, and after the first quarter they led 26-22. Pitesti was going to push harder in the second quarter, which theyve won 24-16, so after 20 minutes of play they led 50-38, but the 2500 fans present in the Olimpia sports hall in Ploiesti knew it wasnt over. Two different teams came back from the lockers. Pitesti started to make more and more errors both in the offense and in the defense, so after the third quarter, their lead has been cut to only 2 points, 58-56, with Ploiesti winning the third quarter 18-8. Things didnt change in the last quarter; Ploiesti continued their offensive, won the quarter 30-19, and the match 86-77. The MVP was again Catalin Burlacu, who scored 24 points. If Ploiesti wins the third match, they will qualify to the semifinals, same like last year when they met Pitesti in the semifinals and won the series 3-0. The match played in the regular season in Pitesti was won by the home team, 87-77, but this occurred in a moment when Ploiesti had the assurance of winning the regular season, so the players didnt play at 100% of their potential.
In Sibiu, home team CSU Sibiu is forced to win the match if they still want to remain in the fight for a semifinal berth. However, they will have a difficult mission, given the fact that they will meet the regular seasons runner-up, U Cluj. The same as in the meeting between Ploiesti and Pitesti, the better ranked team after the regular season, in this case U Cluj, which finished 2nd, won both matches played on their home ground, and now hold the lead 2-0. The first match was a match without a history, Cluj having led from the 12th second up to the finish, managing to obtain a lead at a moment of 31 points, so Coach Marcel Tenter used bench players. As a result, Sibiu managed to lower the margin, but the still lost 75-98. The MVP of this match was Branko Cuic, who was one assist away from the third triple-double in this season, having scored 19 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. The second match saw a different team of Sibiu, which showed that it can make troubles to Cluj, and which had a 19-12 advantage after the first quarter. Cluj managed to strike back, won the second quarter 23-12, so at half-time the scoring table from the Horia Demian sport hall from Cluj-Napoca showed 35-31. The second half saw the team of Cluj better organized, and the lead grew slowly to ten points, but with one minute to go of the third quarter, Octavian Calota and Earl Brown scored two three-pointers, so Cluj won the quarter only with 5 points, 24-19. Sibiu didnt manage to recover, and after a pretty balanced fourth quarter, which has been won by Cluj 26-24, the final score was 85-74 for Cluj. The MVP of the second match was also Branko Cuic, with an efficiency index of 33. The match played on Sibius ground during the regular season saw Cluj winning a very balanced game, 61-58, a game in which both teams had a very good defense.
The third quarter-finals will be played in Oradea, between CSM Oradea and Gaz Metan Medias. The players of Medias won both games played on their home ground, but in both matches Oradea has proved that it can put real trouble to Medias. The first match has been won by Medias, 84-77, but Oradea had the better start, winning the first quarter, score 26-19. Medias fought back in the second quarter, but thanks to a good defense of Oradea, and after some turnovers committed, they won the quarter, 19-14, so at halftime Oradea still held the lead, 40-38. After a very balanced third quarter, with turnovers and spectacular dunks on both sides, Medias finally managed to draw the match even, winning the third quarter 19-17, so the whole match resumed to the last quarter, after three quarters the scoring table showing 57 all. Thanks to a longer bench, and the ability to use more experimented players, Medias took slowly the initiative, and thanks to a very good game of Deven Mitchell, who scored 20 points throughout the game, Medias took the lead 1-0, winning match 1 84-77. The second match looked pretty same as the first one, with many lead changes, and Medias leading at halftime 42-40. Oradea, probably accusing the fatigue from the previous day, didnt manage to keep up the pace, so Medias eventually won the match 85-64, thanks to a solid collective performance. Medias needs to win the third match if they want to avoid the series to include more matches than necessary, and has proved that they can win in Oradea, having defeated Oradea 83-67 during the regular season.
The last quarter final looked like it would be the most balanced one, saw Steaua facing Targu-Mures. Both matches had been very balanced, and both were won by the home team, so Steaua has an advantage of 2-0. The first match saw a very harsh battle both in the paint and in the backcourt, and in the first quarter Virgil Stanescu won the battle in the paint versus Aleksandar Mladenovic, but Mures recovered with some penetrations of the guards and some jump shots of Jason Forte, so Steaua won the quarter only 28-24. The teams went head-to-head in the second quarter, ending it tied, 20-20, so at halftime the score was 48-44. The third quarter was marked by many turnovers, and with many missed shots, but Steaua managed to extend its lead with a further point, winning the quarter 13-12. The last quarter was also very balanced, and the last 2 minutes of the game were full of free throws, and Steaua did better, so they won the match 83-75, after a 22-19 fourth quarter. The second match started with two opposite quarters. The 1000 spectators from a sold-out Mihai Viteazu sports hall thought that this would be an easy meeting for Steaua, as they have won the first quarter 24-16, after Virgil Stanescu scored many points, playing again better than his homologue, Aleksandar Mladenovic. Jason Forte and JuJuan Cooley brought Mures back to life with some three-pointers and jump shots, Liviu Dumitru defended well at Virgil Stanescu, and so Mures won the quarter 28-16, leading at halftime with 44-40. In the third quarter it seemed that the teams forget the defense, so both centers and forwards had no problems in receiving assists from the guards, and the teams scored 28 points each, so Mures still kept the lead, 72-68. The fourth quarter started with an important decision from the referees: JuJuan Cooley was penalized with an unsportsmanlike foul, after having fouled Andrei Mandache on a fast-break attack, but experts think that Marius Ciulin, the best referee from Romania, should have called only personal foul, given the fact that two other players of Mures were behind Cooley. Cooley made its 5th foul, was disqualified, and Steaua drew the tie at 74, having scored both free throws and the attack. After this moment, Mures suffered a moral breakdown, Jason Straight had also been eliminated, so Mures had no experimented guards to deliver passes to the forwards and to the center, so Steaua took the initiative, won the last quarter 34-25 and the match 102-97, extending their lead to 2-0. But Mures still has a good chance, given the fact that theyve won the match played on home ground in the regular season, 81-79.

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