Three-pointer master Panathinaikos had the last laugh at the end of Game 3 of its series with CSKA Moscow on Monday winning 86-85 and reducing the Russians’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five play-offs.
The Greens managed to inflict on CSKA only the third loss it has suffered this season in Europe by avoiding the game in the paint where the Russians are far superior and insisting instead on distance shots, that on the night produced a spectacular result for them: 16 out 31 three-pointers, i.e. 52 percent.
CSKA was on top throughout the first half, with the first quarter ending 20-14 in its favor, but a late rally in the second period by Panathinaikos allowed it to end the first half on level terms (34-34).
The Greeks raised their defensive game – which Dimitris Itoudis, the CSKA coach, dubbed “aggressive defense” – and urged on by 12,500 fans they grabbed leads of up to eight points in the third quarter (45-37) and 10 in the last one (71-61).
CSKA would not concede defeat though, and led by a breathtaking Sonny Weems, scorer of 24 points, it staged a comeback that brought the score level at 85-85 with just a few seconds left.
However a free throw that the game’s top scorer Nikos Pappas (25 points) made settled the game with just three seconds left, for Panathinaikos to take the series to another game in Athens on Wednesday.
Yet even if the Greens lose in Game 4, at least they have regained their confidence that had been badly bruised by the two defeats in Moscow last week.