SPORTS

Panathinaikos snatches home advantage in overtime

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Basketball

Panathinaikos secured home advantage in the Euroleague play-offs right at the end of the regular season, as it beat Armani Milano in Italy on Thursday and depleted Olympiakos lost at home to Zalgiris Kaunas on Friday, both games decided in overtime.

This is the second year in a row that both Greek teams will enjoy home advantage in the all-important play-offs, sharing the third spot on a 19-11 record.

Panathinaikos trailed Armani by up to 17 points early in the second half, but managed to bounce back thanks to an improved defense and a spirited fightback in the rest of the regulation time to force overtime and win 96-95.

As usual, Armani sped ahead in the first half, scoring 45 points in the first 15 minutes and 55 by half-time (55-42), as Panathinaikos had huge problems in defense, especially in rebounds.

However the second half was altogether different, with the Greens roaring back into the game to get their first lead a minute from the end, though a controversial foul decision against Chris Singleton allowed Arturas Gudaitis to score three free throws and force overtime (87-87).

It was all neck-and-neck stuff in the extra five minutes, but Mike James had the last laugh once again to give the Greens the edge in the end for their fifth consecutive win at the end of the regular season.

James, Nick Calathes and James Gist all made 18 points each.

It was a similar story at the Peace and Friendship Stadium 24 hours later, with Olympiakos also blowing a 17-point lead to lose in overtime to another green-clad team, Zalgiris with an 86-85 score.

Playing without Giorgos Printezis, Costas Papanikolaou, Kim Tillie, Dimitris Agravanis and Jamel McLean, Olympiakos advanced 25-10 after the first 10 minutes and 43-31 at half-time.

However Zalgiris showed much more focused in the second half and ate into its deficit to lead by four just before the end (80-76).

The Reds managed to equalize via Kyle Wiltjer and take the game to overtime (80-80), but when Wiltjer came to the rescue again 10 seconds from time for an 85-84 lead, Paulius Jankunas scored the winning basket for the Lithuanians three seconds from the end without an answer from the Greeks.

Vassilis Spanoulis scored 16 points, but had six turnovers and 0/5 triples, while Nikola Milutinov added 15 points plus nine rebounds.

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