An epic fourth quarter come back by Barcelona condemned Panathinaikos to its fourth consecutive Euroleague Top 16 loss, and in the process knocked last season’s European Champions out of this season’s contest.

Though Panathinaikos looked poised to take the win before their fans in Athens, Barcelona went on a 3-18 run late in the game to take victory and equal top spot on Group E.

Olympiakos won its fourth straight match, to move within one of the quarter finals, while Maroussi suffered a narrow three point defeat in Belgrade going down 79-76 to Partizan, though the Athens side is still alive in Group E.

Panathinaikos     67     Barcelona (SPA)     70

The 2009-10 Euroleague will have a new king after Barcelona kept defending champ Panathinaikos winless in Top 16 Group E by rallying late to a 67-70 victory in Athens. It was the third home loss for PAO in as many games at OAKA.

Barcelona improved to 3-1 in Group E, tied for first place with Partizan who defeated another Greek side Maroussi, while PAO fell to 0-4 and is mathematically eliminated from the Group.

PAO looked poised for its first Top 16 victory when a dunk by Drew Nicholas gave the Greens a 61-50 lead with less than 6 minutes left to play.

But former PAO star Jaka Lakovic then sparked the visitors with back-to-back triples, and that was all Barcelona needed to forge a 3-18 takeover run that assured the victory.
Juan Carlos Navarro finished with 15 points for the winners, who outscored PAO 12-26 in the fourth quarter.

For PAO, Nikola Pekovic scored 20 points in 22 minutes, but none after the first shot of the second half.

The loss marked the third time this decade that PAO was eliminated following a championship season without making it to the Final Four again.

Zeljko Obradovic told Euroleague reporters after the match that he was satisfied with his player’s efforts, “I am sorry for this defeat and the fact that we cannot defend our title in the Euroleague. Tonight, we started excellent and I cannot understand why we stopped playing in the last minutes. We had an 11-point margin, but we let it go. We missed concentration in the most crucial moments and this counts a lot. We have quality on our team, but it was not enough this season in the Euroleague.”

Cibona (CRO)     94     Olympiakos     97

Olympiakos practically sealed its progression to the quarter final playoffs after edging Cibona 94-97 in Group H in Zagreb, Croatia.

The Reds improved to 4-0 in Group H and will seal its playoff ticket with another win or if Cibona wins one of its two remaining games. Cibona dropped to 0-4.

Milos Teodosic paced the winners with 22 points and 6 assists, including 3-of-4 free throws in the final 7.7 seconds to win it for the Reds. Linas Kleiza added 20 points on 9-of-11 two-pointers, Josh Childress had 14 while Loukas Mavrokefalides got 10 for Olympiakos.

The hosts used an 11-0 run to get its biggest lead, 28-18, early in the second quarter. Olympiakos rallied in the second quarter and Teodosic, Childress and Theo Papaloukas allowed the Reds to get a 75-84 edge with 4 minutes left.

Cibona rallied behind an outstanding Gordon and regained the lead, 93-92. A critical dunk by Kleiza, free throws by Teodosic and a tactic foul in the final seconds helped Olympiakos to escape with a big win.

Partizan (SRB)     79      Maroussi     76

Maroussi is now on the back foot in its attempt to reach the quarter final Playoffs after their narrow 79-76 loss at the capacity Pionir Arena in Belgrade.

Partizan improved to 3-1 and now leads Group E along with Barcelona, with Maroussi just a win behind with a 2-2 record.

Partizan will reach the quarter final Playoffs for the third consecutive seasons if it beats already eliminated Panathinaikos next week and Maroussi loses. Maroussi, however, has the tie-break advantage if both teams tie at this end of this phase due to its 8-point win at home.

Michalis Pelekanos led Maroussi with 19 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting. Kostas Kaimakoglou added 14, Jamon Lucas and Billy Keys each had 11 while Jared Homan got 10 for the guests.

Maroussi led for most of the game and kept a 40-45 edge at halftime. It all came down to the final minute, as free throws by Keys got Maroussi within 75-74. Aleksandar Rasic and Roberts combined for 4 free throws in the final 13.8 seconds and Keys missed a critical shot from down town on the stretch.