Never-say-die Panathinaikos stayed alive in the quarterfinal playoffs of the Euroleague on Thursday through an emphatic nine-point win at Maccabi Tel Aviv (78-69) that tied the best-of-five series at 2-2 with the fifth game back in Athens next week.
The Greens were dominant for most of the game at the Nokia Arena, one of the toughest venues in European basketball, and showed the composure required to avoid a defeat that would entail elimination from the competition in which it is the current titleholder.
Maccabi went into Game 4 with a 2-1 advantage, having beaten the Greens in Athens a week earlier. The Israelis kept pace with Panathinaikos in the first period, leading 19-17 after the first 10 minutes, only for Panathinaikos to show its teeth thereafter with an improved defense and a prolific offense, which saw the Greeks score 24 points in each of the second and fourth periods.
The visitors were leading 41-36 at halftime before stretching their advantage to 11 points (49-38). Maccabi fought back to 49-47 and was trailing by four points (54-50) after the third quarter, before obtaining the narrowest of leads three minutes from the end (65-64).
Forcing Game 5 was never going to be easy, but Panathinaikos made it appear so, through 10 unanswered points that changed the 67-66 home lead to a 76-67 score which decided the game; that was when Costas Kaimakoglou?s form, Sarunas Jasikevicius?s brilliance and the majestic game of captain Dimitris Diamantidis silenced the home crowd.
However the man-of-the-match distinction ought to go to Nick Calathes for his 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Jasikevicius scored 13, while Diamantidis and Kaimakoglou notched up 12 apiece.
Neither of Maccabi’s Greek players, Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Thodoris Papaloukas, got to score any points in what was a disappointing night for everyone in the Tel Aviv team.
Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday, April 5, at the Olympic Sports Hall in Athens.