KC Rivers (left) and Nick Calathes celebrate victory over Olympiakos in Piraeus.
Champion Panathinaikos is already looking good for finishing top of the table in the regular season of the Basket League, as on the championship’s opener it defeated archrival Olympiakos by three (71-68) away from home on Sunday.
Behind closed doors (due to a stadium ban Olympiakos carried from last year’s finals) and held at the very beginning of the season, the Greek derby took place in peculiar circumstances, also in the absence of Olympiakos’s Vassilis Spanoulis and Brian Roberts due to injuries.
The Reds matched their opponent in Piraeus, however an incident at the host’s bench in the second half, with Costas Papanikolaou protesting loudly at the referees and his coach, Yiannis Sfairopoulos, sending him to the locker room, seemed to distract the team and deprive it of a precious asset.
Even so Olympiakos led by up to nine points early in the last quarter (65-56), until Panathinaikos showed why it feels like playing at home at the Peace and Friendship Stadium. It started scoring triples from everywhere through Chris Singleton and KC Rivers and confounded the Reds to mere observers of their crescendo.
Therefore a 15-3 partial score in the last few minutes of the game turned things around for the Greens, who were led by Nick Calathes, scorer of 14 points (he also collected eight rebounds and distributed seven assists) at the very court they had won the league in June.
Aris and PAOK begin every season with the ambition of entering the top four of the league, but suffered bad losses on the opening weekend. On Saturday Promitheas Patron upset PAOK 79-73 in Thessaloniki, and on Sunday Korivos thrashed Aris 71-55 at Amaliada.
In other games AEK dismissed visiting Trikala 91-72, new boys Faros Larissas saw off promoted Panionios 98-68 and Kolossos Rhodes edged out Rethymno 64-63.
On Monday Lavrio hosts Kymi.