Laboral Kutxa have now put one foot into the Euroleague quarter-finals after beating Barcelona 75-71 in Vitoria in the Top 16.
The win lifts Laboral to an 8-4 mark in Group F and they can ensure qualification as early as Thursday if CSKA Moscow beats Brose Baskets, or failing that, if Real Madrid defeats Olympiacos on Friday.
It also provided the perfect comeback from a heavy 83-56 loss in the league to Unicaja Malaga over the weekend. Something that Laboral Kutxa coach Velimir Perasovic emphasised.
“We are very close to getting to the next stage, but there are still two games and they are important,” he said. “This win was important for us too because we came from a very tough loss at home. That put us in our place, as we have to know that if we won’t give our best, we can get humiliated.
“I have to thank our fans because they didn’t punish us after the game against Unicaja and supported us today in a great way.
For Barcelona, considered strong candidates to reach the Final Four in May, they drop to 6-6 and now need two strong performances in their final two Top 16 games in order to qualify for the last eight.
But they need to improve vastly to even make it to the German capital in mid-May as for a club of this stature, this season’s Euroleague campaign; past week eight of the regular season has simply not been good enough.
Ioannis Bourousis paced Laboral Kutxa with 22 points as the hosts raced clear in the second quarter, a three from Mike James gave Laboral a 40-31 lead with just over two minutes left in the half and despite a Barca fightback early in the third period, Laboral Kutxa were in control.
A dunk by Bourousis in the third opened up a double-digit lead at 54-43, which was answered by Ante Tomic for the visitors only for Bourousis to counter so that the 11-point lead was maintained in the fourth.
Barcelona’s offence improved in the final ten minutes. A three-pointer from Stratos Perperoglou tied matters at 65-65, but Laboral Kutxa dug deep to find that winning touch and Adam Hanga put the finishing touches to a vital victory.
“I think we lost this game because we were unable to play well for 40 minutes,” said Barca’s Tomas Satoransky, who led his team with 20 points.
“We struggled both in offence and defence in some moments, even though when we found ourselves down by 10 points we managed to react and play well. In the end we committed some crucial mistakes at both ends, we didn’t know how to play those minutes and the game was decided against us.”