A great second half was enough for Panathinaikos to take a 2-0 lead in the league?s final series through a 78-66 home win over Olympiakos on May 29, although it was not as easy for the host as the result might show.
The Reds were the better team in the first half, but as the game went on Panathinaikos grew in confidence, reduced its errors and strangled the Olympiakos attack, particularly in the last period.
The host was dominant under the basket, collecting 40 rebounds against 23 for Olympiakos. Once again the absence of Rasho Nesterovic cost Olympiakos dearly.
Just like in Game 1 three days earlier, Olympiakos dominated the first period and led by up to nine points (19-10) with precious points from Vassilis Spanoulis and Loukas Mavrokefalidis.
The Greens started fighting back in the second period and equalized (24-24), but the Reds were still on top with a six-point advantage at the end of the first half (43-37), having led by 10 points (43-33) a little earlier.
As is usual, though, Panathinaikos was a different team in the third period. Dimitris Diamantidis, who was quiet in the first half, led the host?s comeback, with the key support of Nick Calathes and Mike Batiste.
The Greens led 46-45 for the first time in the game and started scoring three-pointers from everywhere, while Olympiakos was so nervous as to miss lay-ins and slam dunks. The third period ended 60-58, but the fourth period was not as tight as the rest of the match.
With playmaker Milos Teodosic being negative and collecting a technical foul as well, Olympiakos had serious problems in attack as the Panathinaikos defense grew ever tighter.
Panathinaikos took the match beyond its visitor pulling away with a 74-62 lead, with Olympiakos eventually scoring no more than eight points in the last period.
Costas Tsartsaris and Romain Sato offered some precious points to the European champion and sealed its second victory in the final series.
Batiste scored 19 points and Diamantidis 15 for Panathinaikos. Spanoulis and Mavrokefalidis notched up 14 points each for Olympiakos.
Olympiakos left the court with serious complaints from the referees, to the extent that Yiannis Bourousis stated that he has decided ?against playing for the national team because the powers that be in Greek basketball do not respect me.?
Likewise Spanoulis stated after the match that ?my teammates are afraid of playing defense?, pointing to the fact that Panathinaikos had 22 more free throws than Olympiakos on the night.
Tsartsaris countered that Panathinaikos won away from home three days earlier having fewer free throws than Olympiakos at its disposal.
Olympiakos coach Dusan Ivkovic stated: ?It?s not a shame losing to the European champion. Five minutes before the end I had to try and calm down the players who were upset with the referees. They were not disciplined, I admit that, but there was a referee whose arm was like frozen, pointing to Panathinaikos?s direction.?
His compatriot Zeljko Obradovic, the Panathinaikos coach, said that ?my players looked at first like being afraid of playing their game. But in the second half we played some good defense and that is not easy, as the Olympiakos players know, too.
?We deserved to win the game. The 12 points is not a real result because Olympiakos was always in the game. This 2-0 is a big advantage for us but of course it is not finished, we know Olympiakos has quality and will try to win the series.?
Game 3 will take place on June 1 in Piraeus.
Meanwhile Aris levelled the series for the third spot beating PAOK 73-70 at home on May 29.
In another tight match between the two Thessaloniki rivals, Aris edged its rival out in the end and made it 1-1 in the best of five-series that continues on June 1 at PAOK?s home court.