BELGRADE (Reuters) - Double former champions Barcelona and high-flying underdogs Red Star Belgrade boosted their hopes of reaching the Euroleague knockout stages after impressive wins on Friday.
Barcelona romped to an 82-66 home win over Greeks Olympiakos Piraeus, who have three titles, while Red Star were unfazed by a venue switch in their 91-82 defeat of Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
Under pressure to deliver, Barcelona produced their best performance of the season, improving their record to 4-4 as Olympiakos slipped to 3-5.
A fired-up Barca outscored Olympiakos 52-28 in the second and third quarter before the visitors salvaged some pride with a late rally.
“We did a great job today and this is how we need to play for the rest of the season,” Barcelona coach Xavi Pasqual told Euroleague television courtside.
Red Star, aiming for their first knockout stage berth, had to vacate the cauldron of their Pionir Hall in Belgrade, which is being prepared for next weekend’s Davis Cup tennis tie between Serbia and Kazakhstan.
It looked like the move to the less intimidating Millenium Hall in Vrsac, 90 kilometres north of the capital, would play into Anadolu’s hands as they conjured a 46-38 halftime lead.
Roared on by several thousand traveling home fans who flocked into the quiet city close to the Romanian border, Red Star stormed back after the break.
Five of their players scored in double digits, led by American forward Quincy Miller who netted 15 points.
German center Maik Zirbes added 14 and nine rebounds, while stand-in playmaker Vasilije Micic chipped in with 13 points.
“The game was very tough and very important for both teams,” said Micic.
“We played more like a team in the second half and showed plenty of character, but now have to keep our feet firmly on the ground.”
Red Star have a 5-3 record and are tied in their section with six-time winners Panathinaikos, who handed leaders Fenerbahce Istanbul their first Top 16 defeat of the season after beating them 76-71 in Athens on Thursday.
The Top 16 features two groups of eight, with the top four in each pool progressing to the best-of-five quarterfinal playoff series.
The playoff winners advance to the May 13-15 Final Four in Berlin.
Holders Real Madrid also made a step forward with a dramatic 90-86 win at Germans Brose Baskets Bamberg, while CSKA beat Khimki 108-98 in a spectacular Moscow derby in Thursday’s other stand-out fixtures.
Editing by Steve Keating.