Top 16, Round 4: Tau Ceramica becomes first playoff qualifier!
As expected, an already dramatic Top 16 saw the intensity rise for the start of its second half in Week 4, which was highlighted by a first team breaking down the door to the Quarterfinal Playoffs. That team was none other than Tau Ceramica, whose down-to-the-wire 87-84 win over visiting Lietuvos Rytas left it as the only undefeated team in the competition. Zoran Planinic played all 40 minutes for the winners, scoring 16 points to go with 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Not only is Tau the first playoff qualifier, but can also clinch first place in Group E - and home-court advantage for the best-of-three quarterfinals - with one more victory. The rest of Group E is unpredictable after previously winless Aris TT Bank staved off elimination by stopping host Fenerbahce Ulker 59-60 as Jeremiah Massey scored 18 points, including the game-winning free throw with 9 seconds left. Aris was one of four road winners in Week 4, among them a pair of favorites who took exclusive hold of first place in their groups. In Group F, Real Madrid beat Zalgiris 69-83behind 18 points from Felipe Reyes and uncanny 5-for-6 three-point shooting, including two end-of-quarter buzzer beaters, by Kerem Tunceri. Madrid was still looking at a first-place tie, however, until Olympiacos rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to shock Maccabi Elite 82-87 in Tel Aviv. Lynn Greer scored 28 points for the Reds, who are now tied with Maccabi in second place. First place in Group G now belongs to CSKA, a blowout 54-82 winner at Roma as Ramunas Siskauskas had 25 points. CSKA led 6-26 and never looked back as Theo Papaloukas tied a Top 16 record with 12 assists. A second win in a row by Unicaja, which beat Barcelona 62-61 on a killer drive by Carlos Cabezas, his first points of the entire Top 16, left those two teams tied behind CSKA in Group G. Another two-game home win streak belongs to Group D's Partizan, which rallied late to beat previously undefeated Montepaschi 78-75, denying the visitors early qualification to the playoffs. Milt Palacio's 26 points were key for Partizan. Group D had another dramatic home comeback when defending champion Panathinaikos surged past Efes Pilsen 74-65 with a game-ending 20-8 run. Mike Batiste scored 20 points for the winners and teamed with Vassilis Spanoulis to take over the game in the last 5 minutes. With two games left in the Top 16, no team is eliminated yet, leaving 15 chasing the remaining seven playoff berths - all except the one already claimed by undefeated Tau Ceramica.