Top 16, Round 6: Onward and upward to the Playoffs!
It was an exceptional end to the Top 16 as more than half the games came down to the final seconds. When the dust finally cleared, the last of the eight quarterfinalists had advanced to the playoffs, the four groups had winners and mouth-watering quarterfinal pairings were set: Regal Barcelona vs. archrival Real Madrid, Maccabi Electra vs. Partizan Belgrade, Olympiacos Piraeus vs. Asseco Prokom and CSKA Moscow vs. Caja Laboral.
Barcelona downed Partizan 82-64 in a battle for the top spot in Group E. Juan Carlos Navarro led the way with 18 points as Barcelona improved to 15-1 this season. Partizan knew before the game that it was headed to the playoffs, since earlier in the day Panathinaikos edged Maroussi 82-79, ending the visitors Cinderella charge for the quarterfinals. Mike Batiste scored 21 and grabbed 8 rebounds to lead the outgoing champs. Group F was decided by a classic battle between two classic Euroleague clubs as Maccabi Electra edged Real Madrid 64-66 on a pair of Alan Anderson free throws with 4.3 seconds left. Madrid, which entered the game undefeated at home this season, led by 19 points before Maccabi's late comeback. Also in that group, Montepaschi Siena beat Efes Pilsen 93-87 to finish its season on a high note. Romain Sato and David Hawkins scored 22 points apiece for the winners. Group G winner CSKA dumped Zalgiris 84-71 to win Wednesday's lone Week 6 contest. Pops Mensah-Bonsu shined with 19 points and 8 rebounds off the bench in his finest game since joining the Russian champs. Unicaja overcame Asseco Prokom 63-82 to finish its Euroleague campaign with a smile. Joel Freeland scored 17 to lead the winners. Group H may have provided the most drama of any group as both games were relevant to tiebreakers and nothing could be decided till both ended. In the end, Caja Laboral topped Cibona 102-90 after overtime and vaulted itself into the playoffs. Mirza Teletovic scored 25 as Laboral came from behind to force overtime and dominate the extra period. That became relevant since BC Khimki bested Olympiacos 96-83, but needed its margin of victory to be at least 7 points more than Laboral's. So Laboral's late surge gave it the head-to-head tiebreak over Khimki and a spot in the quarterfinals. Now the eight remaining teams will have one week off before reporting to the best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs, which begin on Tuesday, March 23 in four great basketball capitals: Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Moscow and Athens.