Olympiakos snatched home advantage in the finals of the Basket League with an imposing performance at the Olympic Sports Hals on Sunday, beating Panathinaikos 75-65 in Game 1 of the best-of-five series.
Being clearly superior from the second to the last quarter of the game, the Reds inflicted on Panathinaikos its first league loss this year after 31 victories in the regular season and the play-offs.
Panathinaikos was the favorite for the game and led 26-19 after the first quarter and by 10 a little later. Yet when Olympiakos stopped relying on out-of-form Vassilis Spanoulis and Giorgos Printezis, on which the Greens had adapted their plans, the game was turned on its head, with the hosts scoring just six points in the second period and the first half ending with the visitors up by three (35-32).
On a bad night for Panathinaikos’s Nick Calathes (0/7 triples), Nikos Pappas and KC Rivers, among others, the Reds made the most of the pressure the Greens increasingly felt, and circulated the ball perfectly (17 assists against the hosts’ eight) while their three-point shooting rate was remarkable 9/21.
In the end their victory was rather easy and emphatic enough to make them favorites for the league crown at this stage.
Costas Papanikolaou made 14 points for the Reds while Mike James notched up 23 for the Greens.
Game 2 of the series will be held on Thursday at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus.
In the battle for the third spot PAOK also won away from home, beating host Promitheas 81-79 at Patra on Saturday. Game 2 is in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.