Top 16, Round 6: Olympiacos, Barcelona, Panathinaikos, CSKA finish first!
The Top 16 came to an end with three road wins on the final day of action – two coming from Olympiacos and Regal FC Barcelona as they clinched first place in their respective groups and home-court advantage in the upcoming best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs. That advantage is significant in noting that in 16 series over four seasons, only twice has a team without the home-court advantage advanced to the Final Four. The playoffs, set to begin on Tuesday, March 24, will be reigning champion CSKA Moscow against Partizan, 2007 champion Panathinaikos against Montepaschi Siena, Barcelona against Tau Ceramica and Olympiacos against Real Madrid. Olympiacos defeated Tau Ceramica 80-88on the road in Vitoria, Spain to lock up Group E. Nikola Vujcic helped Olympiacos to a 16-point second-period lead and finished with 17 points to lead the Reds to victory. Also in that group, Asseco Prokom routed Armani Jeans 72-96 behind 23 points from Qyntel Woods to snap a 12-game losing streak. It was Prokom’s first Euroleague road win since November 2007, when it also won in Italy. Barcelona beat Maccabi 74-90 for its fifth straight win, guaranteeing it the top spot in Group F. Gianluca Basile shot 7 for 9 from downtown to lead Barca with 23 points. Real Madrid edged Asseco Prokom 83-82on Raul Lopez’s wild turnaround jumper at the buzzer. Axel Hervelle scored a season-high 18 to lead Madrid. Panathinaikos trumped Unicaja 103-95 in overtime to wrap up first place in Group G and with it home-court advantage in the best-of-five playoffs. Mike Batiste powered the winners with 22 points and 9 rebounds. Lottomatica Roma bested Partizan 88-72 for its first win of the Top 16. Andre Hutson netted 23 for Roma. In Croatia, CSKA held off Cibona 63-73 to finish Group H at 5-1. Reserve Victor Keyru chipped in 12 points in just his fourth career Euroleague performance in place of the injured Ramunas Siskauskas. Montepaschi downed Fenerbahce Ulker 68-73 by limiting the hosts to just 5 fourth-quarter points. Rimas Kaukenas peppered the nets to the tune of 27 points to pace Montepaschi. The quarterfinalists can now enjoy a short break knowing that the upcoming Quarterfinal Playoff games could be the toughest of the season.