European basketball champion Panathinaikos beat Russia?s UNICS Kazan 68-63 away on Wednesday to finish top of its group in the Top 16 of the Euroleague.
The result means that the Greeks have secured home advantage in their quarterfinal clash with Maccabi Tel Aviv that will determine which of the two teams advances to the Final Four.
Panathinaikos needed victory at Kazan to avoid facing Barcelona in the best-of-five playoffs and was ahead for virtually the whole of the game, if by a small margin.
Even when coach Zeljko Obradovic?s team broke away toward the end of the first half with the score at 40-29, the Russians came back with nine unanswered points to end the first half just two points behind Panathinaikos (40-38).
The Greeks had problems with the hosts? zone defense but were great in their own defense, conceding just 10 points in the third period to lead 52-48.
When UNICS cut the distance for the last time to 63-61 two minutes from time, it fell to Costas Kaimakoglou to become the hero with a crucial three-pointer (66-61) that effectively decided the game in Panathinaikos’s favor.
Mike Batiste led the scoring for the Greeks with 12 points, but an impeccable Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 10 points with 1/1 two-pointer, 2/2 three-pointers and 2/2 free throws, as well as five assists.