Panathinaikos jumped into joint fourth in the Euroleague after scoring its first big win away from home in the regular season, downing Baskonia on Thursday, while Olympiakos is not at risk of losing its third place despite going down at home to leader Real Madrid on Friday.
The Greens now have a good chance of finishing fourth and snatching home advantage from the team they will probably meet in the playoffs anyway, Fenerbahce. They have also fended off the challenge of Baskonia who was on a good run before this game but has now lost twice this season to Panathinaikos.
Led by Chris Singleton (18 points), the Greek Cup winner produced a mesmerizing first quarter to lead 24-6, and then 37-21 at half-time, with a strangling defense on the Basques who were frustrated from the start.
The margin stretched to 22 points (47-25) before the hosts started their fightback. A strange series of turnovers by the Greeks allowed the Spanish team to get to within six points, but they could not get any closer.
The return of James Gist (11 points) has really transformed Panathinaikos that collected 40 rebounds against Baskonia’s 33.
The absence of Giorgos Printezis due to injury proved decisive for Olympiakos that lost 79-73 to a superior Real Madrid.
With captain Vassilis Spanoulis (nine points, 1/7 two-pointers) a shadow of himself, it was Nikola Milutinov who led the Reds’ challenge against Real, scoring 18 points – but that was not enough.
The visitors had an outstanding Anthony Randolph, who along with usual suspect Sergio Llull (21 points each) responded to the host’s eight-point advantage (18-10) for a 37-37 tie at half-time and a nine-point lead (72-63) late in the game that proved unassailable for the hosts.
Olympiakos suffered its second straight home loss and is likely to face one of Anadolu Efes and Baskonia in the play-offs, with home advantage. The Reds are also sweating over Matt Lojeski, who got injured in the game.