Panathinaikos wrested the Basket League title back from Olympiakos with an imposing display at the Peace and Friendship Stadium on Sunday that won it the best-of-five final series 3-2. Its deserved 66-51 victory in Piraeus completed the league-and-cup double for the team coached by Xavi Pascual.
Olympiakos has not only lost the title after two years, but is likely to receive a stadium ban for next year, as barely two minutes from the end the Olympiakos fans hurled flares and started a fire just behind the Panathinaikos bench, forcing the stoppage of the game for almost half an hour and the emptying of the stands with the score at 66-49.
After the first period when Olympiakos had the upper hand and led by eight (11-3), and 19-14 at the start of the second quarter, Panathinaikos dominated the game strangling the home attack and scoring at will from both the low and high posts.
An impressive 22-10 partial score in the second period led to a 36-27 half-time result in the Greens’ favor, with KC Rivers leading them to an impressive comeback.
Instead of the Reds fighting back at the start of the second half, they succumbed to the much more energetic visitors who ran away with the score leading by 21 points (48-27) after 12 unanswered points.
With the fourth quarter starting from 57-37 it was obvious the hosts were not going to get back into the game, and even when the distance was cut to 11 points (59-48) the Greens gave their answer to the demoralized and exhausted Olympiakos players. After a slam dunk that made it 66-49, with 1:50 minutes left on the clock, the home fans invaded the court.
The game resumed 25 minutes later with the stands emptied, and with the last 110 seconds being a mere formality.
Rivers was the top scorer with 13 points and Nick Calathes added another 12 for the Greens. Dimitris Agravanis was the only Olympiakos player in double figures (10 points).
It is most amazing that in the finals Panathinaikos fully recovered from a bad exit from the Euroleague play-offs, with the owner forcing the players and staff to return from Istanbul by coach while four players revolted and flew home instead. After three balanced games in the semifinals against AEK, Game 4 saw Panathinaikos suddenly being on fire to thrash AEK and earn the ticket to the finals.
In all three matches (Games 1, 3 and 5) at Piraeus Panathinaikos was stronger than Olympiakos, but lost its concentration at the end of Games 1 and 3, allowing Olympiakos to stay in contention. Yet in Game 5 Olympiakos was completely exhausted while Panathinaikos was indomitable on the night.
This was a record 35th league title for the Greens, and quite possibly the most unlikely one.