Panathinaikos closer to playoffs, Euroleague Top 16 round-up (vids)

Panathinaikos BC Athens took a decisive step forward in their bid to make Euroleague 2012/13 playoffs stage with a surprising win in Madrid. Zalgiris got back to winning by downing Turkish Anadolu Efes while Barcelona prevailed over Caja Laboral in the Spanish battle.

Real Madrid started the game as the absolute favourites. After all, they had a 9-2 record and had beaten Panathinaikos in OAKA in the first round game. Although they started off the match holding on to a constant lead, the Greek side slowly strengthened their defensive presence and caught up.

From there on it was a tight and rather ugly game where the two teams exchanged leads. Panathinaikos aimed at getting the Real Madrid big guys into foul troubles, feeding Schortsianitis and Lasme while Real Madrid tried to be a threat from the backcourt.

Real Madrid had a chance to enter the last quarter holding onto a seemingly comfortable lead, but Ukic scored an off-balance buzzer beater three-pointer. Add to that Maciulis threepointer in the beginning of the final quarter and you get a picture how the game turned into an all-in battle. Panathinaikos veterans Diamantidis and Tsartsaris were decisive in the last minutes of the game while Pedoulakis outcoached Laso, stretching his squad rotation to keep his players as fresh as possible for those last moments.

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Group E finale in the last two matchdays is expected dramatic as the three teams who have already secured a playoffs spot (CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes) are all tied at the top with a 9-3 record while Panathinaikos follows with 8-4.

In Kaunas, the already knocked out local team put up a great fight in a display of a winning spirit that should be displayed by all teams in all sports. However, it was the away side who started the game on the right foot with Savanovic and Erden being the front-runners for their team. It wasn’t much of a different story in the second quarter as well, up until the last minute of it when Zalgiris regained the lead for the first time after 18 minutes.

That seemed to be the turning point of the game, as Zalgiris picked up from where they had left in the second quarter and continued attacking Efes’ paint, mainly with Kuzminskas and D. Lavrinovic. With many of their players in a bad night, Anadolu Efes could not react, so Zalgiris kept a comfortable lelad until the end of the game, which put the Turkish side in a tough spot regarding the final standings of the Group.

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In the Spanish derby of Group F, Barcelona managed to hold off Caja Laboral who were in the game up until the 39th minute, even though they didn’t start the game in an ideal way. In fact Barcelona held an almost doble score lead by the end of the first quarter with a tight defense featuring CJ Wallace at his best, 15-8.

Same scenario in the second quarter as Barcelona kept silencing Caja Laboral’s offensive weapons. As a result the Vitoria based team settled for a mere 27 points in 20 minutes, while they conceded 40. But it was a different story in the second half, as Caja Laboral strated feeding Lampe and slowly grinding the points difference.

The game became a real battle in the last quarter and up until the 39th minute where Barcelona could barely hold on to their slim lead, 76-74. But their team’s experience and class outsmarted Caja Laboral’s enthusiasm. Final score: 83-74 as Barcelona clinched the top spot of their group and will have the homde advantage during the long and hard road to London Final Four.

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