Showing the way: Pitino's debut at Panathinaikos brought a glorious victory over CSKA Moscow
Santa Claus came from the US for the Greens, with coach Rick Pitino leading Panathinaikos to a home triumph over CSKA Moscow on Friday, after Olympiakos stumbled where it was least expected, going down at Darussafaka on Thursday.
Panathinaikos defeated Russian giant CSKA 96-84 in Athens, as the arrival of NCAA legend Pitino worked wonders for the Greens, switching their defeatism of the previous weeks into a winning mentality, with trademark pressure up and down the court and confidence in shooting.
A tremendous second quarter (36-18 partial) turned the 26-19 Q1 deficit into a 55-44 advantage for Panathinaikos at half-time. This margin gave extra confidence to the host who repelled the Russian team’s fightback at 72-70 to take its lead up to 17 points just before the end (94-77).
The return to action of Ioannis Papapetrou also played its part, as the Greek forward scored a Euroleague career record 17 points. Nick Calathes made another 14, all but three of them in the second half, to take the six-time European champion to its seventh win in 15 games.
On the contrary, Olympiakos suffered an unlikely loss at bottom-of-the-table Darussafaka with a 79-75 score.
Istanbul typically is a place where Olympiakos enjoys triumphs, but this time it suffered an unexpected loss to a team that went into the game with a 1-13 record.
The Reds were a shadow of their usual selves, as they had major problems in defense and offense alike for most of the game. The Turkish team produced leads up to 19 points (58-39) and managed to hold on to victory despite the spirited comebacks the Reds staged three times in the second half.
Janis Strelnieks made 15 points for the Greek team, followed by Zach LeDay with 12.
This loss has reduced the Piraeus club’s record to 9-6 and taken it down to fifth, ahead of the Greek derby with Panathinaikos on January 4.