Panathinaikos won a record 37th Basket League title on Sunday with a clear 84-70 victory over its Eternal Rival, Olympiakos, at the Olympic Sports Hall. The Greens won the best-of-five finals with a 3-2 score to retain the league trophy for one more year.
A solid second-half performance sufficed for the champions to beat the strong resistance of the Reds who had led 35-31 in the first half making the most of the hosts’ nerves.
Olympiakos was more composed in the first couple of periods despite the early foul problems for Nikola Milutinov. However its turnovers allowed nervous Panathinaikos to stay in the game and lead at times.
The turning point appeared to be just before the start of the second half. Some home fans hurled bottles of water at the Olympiakos bench, and the visitors rushed back into the locker room, and reemerged after a few minutes.
They appeared to have lost their concentration, with Panathinaikos quickly regaining the upper hand as its triples started going in. Within minutes it advanced by 10 (57-47) and stretched its advantage to 17 (72-55) to leave the visitors with no hope.
The partial score of the second half was 53-35 with Olympiakos showing unable to react.
Mike James made 18 points and Nikos Pappas 13, to make up for a rather mediocre night for Nick Calathes. They made the difference for the Greens in the second half.
Jamel McLean had 16 points and Giorgos Printezis added 11 for the Reds, who have ended a second consecutive season without any titles.
“This championship is for you, Pavlos Giannakopoulos” chanted the hosts’ fans at the full-to-capacity stands, dedicating the title to the recently deceased former owner of the basketball club and father of current owner, Dimitris Giannakopoulos.
Gracing the stands in this final of finals was NBA sensation Yiannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” cheered on his brother, Thanassis who was instrumental to Panathinaikos’s defense before he got fouled out.