Real Madrid reached the Euroleague playoffs with four games to spare after a 93-62 home rout of Alba Berlin on Thursday ensured a quarter-final berth for the winners of a record eight titles in the competition.
Barcelona, twice former champions, also edged closer to the knockout stage with an 89-71 win over holders Maccabi Tel Aviv on the back of a fine performance by Croatian centre Ante Tomic.
Favourites to win their ninth trophy if they reach the May 15-17 Final Four on home court in Madrid, Real surged into the last eight improving their second group stage record to 9-1.
Alba could not match Real’s deep roster as 11 of the home team’s 12 players netted, with American guard Jaycee Carroll amassing 13 points to lead a pack of five who finished in double-scoring digits.
Barcelona, who have played in fits and starts in the Top 16 featuring two sections of eight, treated their fans in the Blaugrana to free-flowing basketball with Maccabi beaten at their own game based on quick transition.
“It’s always difficult against them because that’s their style but we played really well today,” Tomic, who led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds, told Euroleague television.
“It is very important that we have climbed to second place and we will now try to win the group,” he said.
Juan Carlos Navarro, Deshaun Thomas and Tomas Satoransky added 11 points each for Barcelona, who have six wins and three defeats like third-placed Maccabi.
Red Star Belgrade, who lost seven of their opening eight games, celebrated a second successive win after a 91-68 victory over Galatasaray kept alive an outside chance of progressing.
Having lost several key players in recent weeks amid a difficult financial situation, Galatasaray were swept away by a dominant Red Star whose Slovenian guard Jaka Blazic scored a game-high 19 points.
In the other group, Friday’s schedule offers a mouth-watering clash between leaders Olympiakos Piraeus and closest rivals Fenerbahce while third-placed CSKA Moscow visit Spaniards Unicaja Malaga.
The top four teams from each section will advance to the best-of-five quarter-final playoffs, with the winners progressing to the Final Four.