SPORTS

Christmas came early for Greeks in the Euroleague

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Basketball

Olympiakos and Panathinaikos kept up the chase on Euroleague leader CSKA Moscow with their precious away wins over Efes and Red Star respectively to complete another perfect week for the Greek teams in the competition with four wins in as many matches.

Belgrade is always a hard place to visit for Panathinaikos, particularly when facing Red Star, whose hardcore fans have a close relationship with those of Olympiakos: Yet their clumsy swearing in Greek from the stands on Thursday and even the curiously hostile referee decisions would not be enough to stop the Greens on the night. The 69-63 triumph for the Greek champion points to its likely return later this season, for the Final Four that will take place at the same court.

Even without Nick Calathes, and with Nikos Pappas flying to Belgrade straight from an Athens hospital to join the team and play 17 minutes, Panathinaikos dominated the game in Serbia silencing the crowd with its energy and teamwork(15 assists).

Marcus Denmon and James Gist made 16 points apiece, while former Panathinaikos shooting guard James Feldeine was the host’s top scorer with 21 points.

The Athens giant extended its record to 10-4 and is alone in third, one point behind Olympiakos.

The Reds are second, on 11 wins from 14 games, after seeing off host Efes Anadolu in Istanbul 61-58 on Friday.

Olympiakos took an early lead (17-9 after the first period) and retained it until the last one, when a partial 13-4 for Efes gave it an unlikely lead (52-49).

Yet two crucial three pointers by Ioannis Papapetrou and Vassilis Spanoulis restored the Reds’ advantage without the Turkish team being able to do anything about it in the last couple of minutes.

Rejuvenated Spanoulis topped Olympiakos’s scorers with 12 points, followed by Hollis Thompson with 11, while Jamel McLean was once again precious with nine points, seven rebounds and five fouls earned.

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