Olympiakos dismissed the challenge of German visitor Bamberg on Friday in Piraeus to stay in touch with Euroleague leaders CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid, as Panathinaikos went down at in-form Red Star Belgrade on Thursday.
Coming from their bad loss at Armani Milano two days earlier, the Reds had an absolute need to beat Bamberg – their jinx team – and did so with an 83-77 score at the Peace and Friendship Stadium despite the absence of Giorgos Printezis.
Captain Vassilis Spanoulis was considerably improved, scoring 15 points and distributing six assists, but Khem Birch proved instrumental with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
This was Olympiakos’s 14th win in 20 games, keeping it third at the table.
Panathinaikos, on the other hand, is still uncertain of a top-eight finish that will take it to the play-offs, after suffering its ninth loss in 20 games going down 72-66 in Belgrade. It now lies seventh.
The Greens had a miserable start to the match trailing 16-0, but then regrouped and leveled the score (42-42) thanks to an impressive Kenny Gabriel (23 points), before going ahead by two, halfway through the last quarter of the game.
However the poor choices in offense in the last few minutes had the Greeks pegged at 63 points for a long time, allowing the Serbs to make the most of their great form (seven wins in a row) and their home advantage to win by six. Still, Panathinaikos managed to preserve its superior head-to-head record, having won by 11 in Athens.
In the Champions League round of 24 AEK will face Juventus of Lithuania, PAOK will meet Partizan of Serbia and Aris will lock horns with France’s Strasbourg in the home-and-away knockouts that start on February 7.