PAO, Olympiakos forge ahead towards quarters
Panathinaikos and Olympiakos moved a step closer in their Euroleague quest for a Quarterfinal Playoffs spot, with both Greek sides winning in tight matches.
PAO had a narrow two point win at home to Spaniards Caja Laboral, while Olympiakos had a six point win on the road to another Spanish side, Valencia.
In an outstanding showdown that went down to the last second, Panathinaikos inched closer to progression in difficult Top 16 Group E by edging Caja Laboral 76-74 in Athens on Thursday night.
PAO improved to 3-1 and became the exclusive leader in Group E while Laboral ties with Lietuvos Rytas for second place at 2-2.
Antonis Fotsis led the winners with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Batiste and Drew Nicholas each added 12 while Stratos Perperoglou had 10 for Panathinaikos. David Logan led Laboral with 20 points on 5-of-7 three-pointers.
The visitors, rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 11 minutes to tie the game, 72-72, on a three-point play by Esteban Batista.
Batiste followed a critical basket with free throws to give the hosts a 76-74 edge with 4.2 seconds left. San Emeterio drew a foul with 0.2 seconds remaining but missed both free throw attempts.
PAO forward Fotsis was thrilled with his side's win. "I think that this is a big victory, which proves once again our character and heart. We refused to lose and this is very important.
"A few details decided the winner, like a shot and the missed free throws.
"We didn't manage to beat them by 8 points and get the tiebreak advantage against Caja Laboral, but the road is open. We have to win the two remaining games and we will try hard to do it."
Olympiakos win away in Spain
Olympiakos pulled out a tough win on the road against Valencia, 79-85, also on Thursday night at the Pabellon Fuente de San Luis in Spain to jump into first place in Group H of the Euroleague Top 16.
Olympiakos, now at 3-1 with the victory, is tied atop the group with Fenerbahce.
Valencia falls to 1-3 with the loss and now faces an uphill battle to make it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
Olympiakos cemented the win on Vassilis Spanoulis's 18 points and some clutch inside buckets by Rasho Nesterovic down the stretch of a tight game that had Valencia owning a 6-point lead in the third quarter after coming back from a 9-point deficit in the second.
Nesterovic emerged with 16 points and 6 rebounds, while Ioannis Bourousis and Zoran Erceg scored 12 apiece and Milos Teodosic added 11.
Valencia overcame a 29-47 rebound disadvantage to keep it close in the fourth quarter and actually led 71-67 with less than three minutes to go. But ultimately, Victor Claver's and Dusko Savanovic's
16 points each were not enough against the Reds.
Rafa Martinez also scored 12 points in defeat, while Omar Cook added 11 and 5 assists. Olympiakos will travel to play Fenerbahce next week for first place in Istanbul, while Valencia faces another tough road challenge at Zalgiris Kaunas.
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