Vassilis Spanoulis hit a three-pointer with half a second left to lift Olympiacos to a 68-65 win over fierce rivals Panathinaikos on the final game night of the Euroleague Top 16.
With both teams through and difficult quarter-final opponents in the shape of either CSKA Moscow or Real Madrid waiting, it was all about third and fourth spot in Group E. The stakes may not have been as high as it could have turned out, but the pride and passion of the Athens derby way surpassed the final standings in the group.
And after an intense battle in-front of a near sell-out crowd, Spanoulis hit a triple from way outside to settle the tie. Harsh on Panathinaikos – who finish in fourth – as they will now play either Real Madrid or CSKA Moscow in the last eight, but jubilation for the Reds of Piraeus.
There is no reward though for third-placed Olympiacos; they will square-off, like the Greens with either CSKA Moscow or Real Madrid in the quarter-finals.
“It was a game without a big score, but with a lot of tactics and with players on both team showing their character. Panathinaikos did more than what we were expecting, especially thanks to [Loukas] Mavrokefalidis,” Olympiacos coach Georgio Bartzokas said.
“For us it was like a must-win situation after we lost three games to them and our percentage in free throws proves the pressure we were under. We wanted something better tonight, but we don’t underestimate the victory. Spanoulis is a three-time Euroleague MVP and it is not fair to evaluate him after a bad game. It is normal for him to feel an extra pressure in the games against Panathinaikos.”
Bryant Dunston and Kostas Sloukas led Olympiacos with 12 points each with Greek international Loukas Mavrokefalidis leading all scorers for Panathinaikos with 17 points.
The other Group E contests saw a shock win for Laboral Kutxa, as they deservedly beat Barcelona 97-86 on the road.
It seemed to be business as usual as Barcelona led 50-35 at the half-time interval but Vitoria came fighting back and took a shock 66-60 lead heading into the fourth quarter. From there, they romped home in a free scoring final period.
Andres Nocioni led all scorers with an impressive haul of 37 points in just 28 minutes. Juan Carlos Navarro returned to the line-up and led Barca with 25 points. The Catalan side were already confirmed as group winners prior to the game. Laboral Kutxa; already eliminated.
Fenerbahce comfortably defeated Anadolu Efes 84-65 in the Istanbul derby in a dead rubber game at the Ulker Sports Arena.
Luka Zoric led Fenerbahce with 20 points as a 21-10 first quarter scoreline set the tone in a rather drab affair.
The lone Group F clash saw Lokomotiv Kuban stay alive by beating Bayern Munich 84-75 in Krasnodar.
The Russians now must wait and see if Galatasaray can lose to already eliminated Partizan to see if they are through or not. If the Turkish side win, Lokomotiv are out.
Krunoslav Simon and Derrick Brown led Kuban with 18 points each. Nihad Djedovic led eliminated Bayern with 16 as they end their maiden Euroleague season with a loss in the second round.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to reach the desired point differential,” Kuban coach Evgeny Pashutin said. “But still it’s a good win and we had a great season in Euroleague.”