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Holders Olympiakos struggle as Barcelona march on

By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Euroleague holders Olympiakos Piraeus face an uphill battle to reach the knockout stages following a 78-74 defeat at Fenerbahce while Barcelona stretched their winning Top 16 streak to eight matches.

CSKA Moscow won a rip-roaring Russian classic against Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar 94-93 and former Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom made a cameo appearance for Spaniards Laboral Kutxa Vitoria who are bottom of Group E with a 1-7 record.

Fenerbahce hauled themselves back into the hunt for a quarter-final berth after forward Linas Kleiza and playmaker Lester Bo McCalebb scored 41 points between them in front of a fervent home crowd in Istanbul on Friday.

It was a third win on the trot for Fenerbahce who have a 4-4 record as do Olympiakos, fellow Greeks Panathinaikos and Spaniards Unicaja Malaga with a four-way dogfight developing for three tickets to the knockout stages.

The quartet trail Emporio Armani Milan who have a 5-3 record and runaway leaders Barcelona who are on the verge of sealing their passage with games to spare after Croatia center Ante Tomic amassed 26 points and 15 rebounds in an 89-84 overtime win at Anadolu Efes Istanbul.

"It was a great effort from Efes but we played really smart in the last couple of minutes of regular time and then put our hearts on the court to win the game," Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual told www.euroleague.net.

DOWN TO WIRE

In the day's curtain-raiser, guard Milos Teodosic delighted CSKA fans by burying three late three-pointers to finish with a game-high 25 points against Lokomotiv, with the lead changing hands multiple times in a game that went down to the wire.

"When you lose a big advantage twice it gives you a little bit of a bitter feeling even after a win," CSKA's Italian coach Ettore Messina said.

"We were erratic but fortunately (Teodosic) made some big shots and I think it was a great game for the fans."

The victory left six-times champions CSKA in a commanding position to reach the last eight which features the top four from each of the two pools.

The winners of the best-of-five quarter-final playoff series will advance to the May 16-18 Final Four in Milan.

The Euroleague's finest often move to the NBA for an ultimate test of their skills but Odom, who won the 2009 and 2010 NBA championship with the Lakers, took a road far less traveled as he arrived from the United States to rekindle his flailing career at Laboral.

Odom, who played in the 2013 playoffs for the Los Angeles Clippers, was point-less and collected just two rebounds in Laboral's tame 81-71 home defeat by fellow Spaniards Unicaja Malaga which kept them rooted to the bottom of Group E.

The 34-year-old forward said he was happy to return to the court after a 10-month absence.

"It's so good just to play basketball again," said Odom. "Of course the game was not a success and the team needs work. We have to get everybody on the same page."

(Editing by Tom Hayward)

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