Panathinaikos and Olympiakos scored road wins over two of the least powerful teams in the Euroleague, with convincing performances at Darussafaka and Buducnost respectively.
Panathinaikos is now on a 12-13 record after downing host Darussafaka 91-67 in Istanbul on Thursday and retains its chances for a top-eight finish with this third victory in a row.
The Greek champion had the lead throughout the first half, that ended 46-37, and when the league’s bottom team edged closer, to six points (57-51), Panathinaikos responded with a fierce offense and a stifling defense for a partial 24-4 score that gave the Turks absolutely no chance on the night.
As coach Rick Pitino had promised, Panathinaikos abandoned its obsession with three-point shots, shooting 66 two-pointers and just 11 triples.
Reborn Giorgos Papagiannis bagged a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, plus three blocks. Nick Calathes also had a double-double, with 10 points and 11 assists, but the winners’ top scorer with Ioannis Papapetrou with 18 points.
In equally impressive fashion, Olympiakos ended its five-match losing streak at Podgorica downing Buducnost 89-76 on Friday. It has 13 wins in 25 games but will need at least three more wins in the last five games to make sure it reaches the play-offs.
The Reds took no prisoners at Montenegro as they were determined not to let this one go wrong. They advanced 27-21 after a run-and-gun first quarter, and 51-34 after a more measured second period, always keeping the upper hand.
The second half was more like a mere formality, with the Piraeus team stretching its advantage further before easing to a 13-point victory in the end. "For us it was a do-or-die situation", admitted coach David Blatt after the end.
Nikola Milutinov was outstanding for the Reds, with 15 points and 12 rebounds, trailing only Giorgos Printezis (who had 19 points) on the scorers' chart.
In the Basketball Champions League AEK has become a favorite in the all-Greek home-and-away tie with PAOK after winning 84-75 at Thessaloniki on Tuesday, before Promitheas Patras defeated tournament favorite Tenerife 69-57 at home on Wednesday. The return games are scheduled for next Wednesday.