Panathinaikos one step from returning to throne

Panathinaikos defeated Olympiakos for the second time in 48 hours, this time by 63 to 52 points at home on Sunday, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series of the Greek basketball league finals and come to within one win from reclaiming the domestic crown.

This time it was Olympiakos who was the better team in the first half of the game taking a lead as high as eight points (27-19), as Panathinaikos felt the pressure of the expectation of the 20,000 fans at the stands.

Yet from the last minute of the first half and into the second one, the Panathinaikos that had dominated the European champion two days earlier at Piraeus returned to the court and cut the distance to just two points at half-time (29-31), before storming ahead in the third period thanks to Roko Ukic, Mike Bramos and Ramel Curry.

The Greens stunned the Reds with their breathtaking pace in attack as they scored 24 points in the third quarter to lead by eight (53-45).

That proved to be a lead that the Reds could do nothing about in the last period, as the host’s defense strangled them: It only allowed the visitors to score seven points in the last 10 minutes, when it mattered most, and win Game 2 by 11 points in the end as captain Dimitris Diamantidis proved crucial with his points just as the Reds had made their last-ditch effort to reduce the arrears at 55-50.

Ukic notched up 17 points, including four three-pointers, while Diamantidis added another 10 points. Vassilis Spanoulis had 12 for the visitors.

Olympiakos’s plight in the finals is partly due to the very poor showing of its two key US stars, Kyle Hines and Acie Law, the latter having suffered from gastroenteritis earlier in the week.

Game 3 will take place on Wednesday in Piraeus and if Panathinaikos wins it will complete a league-and-cup double this season.

In the battle for the third spot, Panionios and AGO Rethymnou are tied at 1-1 in their best-of-five series, after AGOR won 74-73 at home in Game 2 on Sunday.