The Euroleague Top 16 is in its final stretch as the highway to Madrid intensifies. Four spots for the quarter-final playoffs are still open, but no home-court advantage has been decided yet.
One of those teams vying for the latter, Barcelona, said goodnight to Lithuanian champions in the early game.
Led by Alex Abrines, Barca came out 83-72 winners in a game that they had control of throughout.
Abrines totalled 16 points to lead the Catalan side who will be guaranteed home-court via Group E if Maccabi loses to Real Madrid on Friday. For Zalgiris, their Euroleague season ends in the Top 16 again.
The other Group E game saw ALBA Berlin improve its chances of a quarter-final spot as they beat Red Star Belgrade 73-68 in the German capital.
The win improves ALBA to 6-6, while Red Star is mathematically done at 3-9.
Marko Banic paced the winners with 18 points on 8/10 two-point shooting with Alex Renfroe adding 13 points and 6 assists.
“I feel very happy, but in the last two minutes, I almost had five heart attacks,” said Banic. “We really need to calm down and use our advantage. We had a similar scenario in our last game against Galatasaray.
“We fell down and didn’t know how to come back, but like I said many times this season, this team has big character. We always fight and never give up.”
Despite the loss, Red Star’s Boban Marjanovic posted career high numbers with 27 points to go with 10 rebounds for an index rating of +40.
In Group F, Fenerbahce strolled past Unicaja Malaga 78-63 in Istanbul for their ninth straight victory.
Andrew Goudelock scored 22 points and Nemanja Bjelica totaled 15 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks to lead the charge for already qualified Fenerbahce.
“We are playing better day by day,” Fenerbahce’s Jan Vesely said. “Tonight was a good example of the team chemistry. We share everything on the court. Everybody is involved in the game in all aspects, rebounds, assists. I’m happy to be a part of this great team.”
But with joy comes pain, as Ricky Hickman was taken off during the third quarter and did not return. It was later confirmed that Hickman will miss the rest of the season with an Achilles tendon injury.
Olympiacos punched its ticket to the playoffs with a hard-fought 86-75 win over Anadolu Efes in Piraeus.
For 35 minutes, it was anybody’s game, as neither team led by more than six points, but Olympiacos made the final burst to deny Anadolu coach Dusan Ivkovic a win against a team he steered to 2012 Euroleague glory in Istanbul.
“It’s a very important win,” Olympiacos coach Giannis Sfairopoulos said. “With all the problems we had, our offence was much better after halftime.
“We scored 51 points, and we had continuity on defence. We scored some baskets that we missed in the first half – three-point shots, mainly – and that made the difference.”
With major contributors Vassilis Spanoulis, Brent Petway and Kostas Sloukas, Oliver Lafayette was left to lead the winners with 17 points, while Anadolu Efes maintain fourth spot in Group F.
Two teams still hoping to catch Anadolu Efes played in the fashion capital with EA7 Milano toppling Laboral Kutxa 99-85.
Alessandro Gentile led the way with a career-high 29 points, but despite the win, Laboral Kutxa own the head-to-head over their Italian counterparts due to a 19-point win in an earlier encounter.