|04 April 2013|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Vassilis Spanoulis and his Olympiacos teammates still have some work to do if they want to repeat this scene for consecutive years.|
Thursday, the final day of action in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16, features three crucial games that will decide the fate in the competition of four powerhouses and last season's Eurocup champions.
CSKA Moscow (10-3), Real Madrid, Panathinaikos and Anadolu Efes (all at 9-4) have already secured the top four places in Group E, and in doing so, clinching qualification to the play-offs, so Thursday's results will only affect their final place in the standings.
Panathinaikos play host to CSKA in Athens at the same time that Real welcome Efes in Madrid and while their battles to earn one of the top two spots in the group and the home-court advantage in the play-offs are important, they are nowhere near as vital as the do-or-die clashes in Group F.
The only certainty in that group is that FC Barcelona Regal (12-1) have clinched first place.
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv and reigning Euroleague champions Olympiacos Piraeus are right behind the Catalan powerhouse at 8-5, while last year's Eurocup champions Khimki Moscow Region, Caja Laboral Vitoria and Montepaschi Siena are tied at 7-6.
Two of these five teams will not board the play-offs train.
On Thursday, Barcelona are playing host to Maccabi Tel Aviv, Olympiacos welcome Khimki in Greece and Caja Laboral face off with Siena in Vitoria.
Maccabi and Olympiacos are the only two of these five contenders that depend entirely on themselves, in that they will qualify if they win on Thursday.
Moreover, the Israeli side will also secure the all-important second place in the group should they win, as they have the head-to-head advantage over the Greeks.
The other three teams that are involved in the deciding Thursday battles do not have this luxury and either one of them could emerge victorious from their respective encounter and still not be rewarded with a ticket to the play-offs.
Siena are perhaps in the most delicate position, since even if they win in Vitoria, a Barcelona victory combined with a Khimki victory (with less than 20 points of margin) OR a Maccabi victory combined with a Khimki victory by exactly four points in Greece, will knock them out of the play-offs.
Caja Laboral, are also wishing against the last combination, since a Maccabi victory combined with a Khimki win by up to 13 points is the only eventuality that would prevent them from making the play-offs, should they beat Siena of course.
Khimki, whose ability to win in Piraeus seems to be at the epicentre of every mathematical permutation on Thursday, are in the best position of these three teams that are tied at 7-6.
Not, obviously, because clinching victory at Olympiacos is an easy task, but because as long as they win by at least four points there is no combination of results elsewhere that could deny them their passage to the quarter-finals.
All Thursday deciders tip off at 20:45 CET.