Open road for Reds, rocky for Greens in Euroleague
Olympiakos clinched the top spot of its pool in the Euroleague through its 15-point victory at Fenerbahce on February 24 and is already looking forward to its quarterfinal clash with Italy?s Siena that leads to the Final Four in Barcelona.
Panathinaikos, on the other hand, will need everything to go its way in the last round of games on March 3 in order to win its own group and avoid Barcelona in the all-important quarterfinals.
For the Reds, winning in Turkey was always going to be difficult even with a full squad, given that they had lost at home by 14 points to Fenerbahce. Not only did they win without injured Yiannis Bourousis, Yotam Halperin and Marko Keselj, but they also covered the 14-point deficit winning 80-65.
This means they have secured first place with one more game to go, that against Zalgiris Kaunas at home. They already know that they will face Siena in the best-of-five quarterfinal playoffs, enjoying home advantage.
As a result last year?s finalist Olympiakos is a favorite to reach one more Final-Four.
The same cannot be said yet of Panathinaikos, who suffered a shock home loss to Lietuvos Rytas with a 68-67 score on February 23 and slumped to second in its pool.
The Greens may even go out of the competition altogether unless they beat Unicaja Malaga in their last group game on March 3.
They will then hope that Lietuvos Rytas beats Caja Laboral in Vilnius, Lithuania on the same evening so that the Greek champion can finish first.
Topping its group will not only mean that Panathinaikos will have home advantage for the quarterfinals, but also that it will avoid the competition?s favorite, Barcelona, and face Maccabi Tel Aviv instead.
The absence of injured Aleks Maric from the frontline and the lack of a credible alternative to Dimitris Diamantidis in the point-guard position have cost Panathinaikos in a month (February) when it often tends to see its performance lag ? last year Panathinaikos went out of the Euroleague and lost the Greek Cup final in February, before improving its game later to win the league again.