SPORTS

Greens conquer Maccabi, Reds see off Efes

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

Mike James scored the winning basket for Panathinaikos in Israel.

TAGS: Basketball

Olympiakos has clinched home advantage for the play-offs with its hard-fought win over Anadolu Efes, but Panathinaikos’s win at Maccabi is probably more important as it kept it in the running for a top-four spot, with two games left to play.

Panathinaikos scored its third straight win downing Maccabi 76-75 in a thrilling game at Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Mike James scored 27 points, including the winning basket five seconds from the end, to become the hero of the game and match his personal-best in the Euroleague.

The two teams exchanged the lead throughout the game, with Maccabi needing victory to keep up the chase for a play-off spot. It led by up to 11 points in the first half (38-27), yet Panathinaikos bounced back to regain the edge in the second half (56-54) and snatch the win right in the end.

On a rather quiet evening for Nick Calathes (10 points) and James Gist, James as well as Ian Vouyioukas (16 points) and Chris Singleton (nine points, 10 rebounds) rallied the Greens to victory with their energy. Ending an away game with 10 rebounds (42 against 32) more than your host is always a good omen.

With 17 wins in 28 games, the Greens seem destined for the fifth spot, unless Real Madrid slips up next week in Belgrade.

Olympiakos was supposed to have a easy ride at home against bottom team Anadolu Efes, but had to work hard to win 89-82 on Friday at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. Barring an upset, Olympiakos will finish third in the regular season.

The Reds seemed unable to finish off the Turkish team, as just when they took some distance they would lose their focus in defense, allowing Efes to come back time and again. True, the absence of injured Costas Papanikolaou was quite obvious for the Greeks.

Efes never got to lead, or even equalize, but the fact that a team that suffered its seventh straight loss actually challenged Olympiakos all the way in Piraeus should be of great concern for coach Yiannis Sfairopoulos.

Nikola Milutinov was the top scorer for the Reds with 20 points, followed by Vassilis Spanoulis and Ioannis Papapetrou with 17 each.

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