Saturday action in the Greek Basket League saw Olympiacos rally past AEK Athens on the road (67-76). Thanks to this win, the “Reds” returned to the winning track, following a series of unfortunate results.
Both teams were dealing with multiple issues, with many key players being sidelined, due to injury. Olympiacos, though, stepped up and played at high standards to win the game.
The visitors trailed only for a few seconds in the game; they led by as many as 14 points (51-65) and cruised to the victory.
Four players scored in double figures for the winners, with Nikola Milutinov posting an impressive double-double (14 points, 18 rebounds). On the other hand, Giannoulis Larentzakis was the best player of the losing squad with 16 points.
Olympiacos earned its second straight victory and improved to 21-3 in the Greek standings. For its part, AEK Athens suffered its third straight loss and dropped to 17-8.
The two rivals will likely also face each other either in the first or the second round of the playoffs. The “Reds” have been deducted eight points from the standings, having forfeited two games against Panathinaikos.
As a result, Olympiacos will finish either sixth, seventh or eighth in the standings. If they clash with Panathinaikos, though, they will not compete in the playoffs at all.
The reason? Olympiacos has declared that they will forfeit the series against Panathinaikos. This will only change if foreign referees officiate the matches.
One way or another, this season has already been unsuccessful for the three-time EuroLeague champions.
The club was eliminated from the EuroLeague, although they were fighting for the home-court advantage in January. Yet, they lost eight of their last 11 matches and failed to finish in the Top-8.
The team is also dealing with chemistry issues and injuries, while many changes have also taken place in the roster.
With that in mind, it is doubtful whether they will be competitive in the playoffs. At the same time, they have expressed their desire to join the ABA (Adriatic) League. But, a final decision will be made next month.
On the other hand, AEK Athens has faced many ups and downs so far. They have been fighting through injuries since the start of the season. Key players, like Jonas Maciulis, have suffered season-ending injuries.
Concurrently, the team failed to defend its Greek Cup and Basketball Champions League titles.
Their elimination from the Champions League Final Four certainly was a step back. They were considered the favorites in that competition, but the loss to Bamberg affected them, especially mentally.
AEK Athens now is on a three-game losing streak. Coach Luca Banchi and his players have to return to the winning track and gain momentum ahead of the playoffs.
That said, the question is who will stand tall, with the season reaching its turning point. Will it be Olympiacos or AEK Athens?