Olympiakos and Panathinaikos will play thrilling games even when they do not really need to win. Such was the match on Thursday, for the last round of the Euroleague top-16 stage, with Olympiakos winning 68-65 in Piraeus to clinch the third spot in the group, leaving Panathinaikos in fourth.
Both Greek teams advance to the playoffs without home advantage, and Olympiakos will likely face CSKA Moscow while Panathinaikos will probably battle it out with Real Madrid in the best-of-five series.
A distinctive feature of the game was the shutouts both teams suffered for some spells of the game, allowing their opponents to register partial scores such as 10-0, 13-2 etc.
The two teams seemed far too nervous for a match that had so little at stake, the score remained on low levels and turnovers were plenty, particularly in the last quarter of the game.
Panathinaikos led for most of the match after reversing a 10-3 Olympiakos advantage, to gain the upper hand for the rest of the first half that ended 37-29 in its favor.
In its first game against Olympiakos with Fragiskos Alvertis on its bench, the Greek champion opted for a less defensive game than what had gifted it three wins in four games earlier this season under coach Argyris Pedoulakis.
The Greens led by as many as 12 points at the start of the third quarter (41-29), but Olympiakos came back to advance 46-44 thanks to a series of three-pointers and a string of offensive rebounds.
Led by Loukas Mavrokefalidis, Panathinaikos responded to lead 53-46 and then 62-56, but a Vassilis Spanoulis three-pointer on the very last second of the game gave the Reds victory and the third spot in the group. The result will also ease the pressure on Olympiakos coach Giorgos Bartzokas
Mavrokefalidis was the top scorer of the game notching up 17 points for Panathinaikos, while Costas Sloukas and Bryant Dunston scored 12 each for Olympiakos.