SPORTS

Do-or-die match arrives for Panathinaikos, again Greeks need to beat Benetton Treviso by seven to proceed

Panathinaikos will try to stay in the Euroleague tonight (9.45 p.m.) at the Olympic complex’s basketball arena, through beating Italy’s Benetton Treviso by at least seven points in the group’s last game. After bouncing back from three defeats in the competition’s second group stage, beating Cibona Zagreb in Athens and Efes Pilsen in Istanbul during the last fortnight, last season’s Greek champion and winner of the Greek cup this month must complete its comeback with a win over the Italians, who have a 3-2 record to date in this round. To ensure qualification, Panathinaikos needs to cover the margin of its defeat at Treviso. If in the group’s other game Turkey’s Efes Pilsen downs Cibona Zagreb in Croatia, then Panathinaikos needs a victory by any margin to top the group, while if Cibona win at home, Panathinaikos can only finish second provided it gets a seven-point margin tonight. The top two of each group proceed to the cross-group quarterfinal playoffs for berths in this season’s Final Four tournament, to be held in Prague between April 28-30. The group leader will enjoy home advantage in the best-of-three playoffs. Olympiakos has already qualified for the next round as second in its group, so its trip to Lithuania to play bottom-of-the-group club Zalgiris Kaunas tomorrow is irrelevant. Tonight’s game will register an attendance record for a Euroleague match in Greece, as it has sold out since Monday, so more than 17,500 fans are expected to turn out. «The secret is to be concentrated throughout the 40 minutes and not allow the Italians to believe even for one second that they can beat us,» said Greek playmaker Dimitris Diamantidis. David Blatt, the American-Israeli coach of Treviso, answered that «there is no other solution than winning in Athens. We will have to be very strong if we want to proceed to the quarterfinals.» Tonight’s game features several innovations by Panathinaikos, including the premiere of the new mascot, Mr Green, and the entertainment group Air Greens, promising more fun along NBA lines.