Panathinaikos battles for win

Panathinaikos held on in overtime for a one-point victory, 86-85, against visiting Olympiakos last night to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series for the basketball league title. Playmaker Dimitris Diamantidis made two crucial contributions for Panathinaikos at make-or-break points in the match. With Olympiakos trailing by a point seconds before the end of the fourth period, Diamantidis intercepted Alex Acker as he prepared to lay up. He also scored the winning basket as the overtime period was set to expire. Defending champion Panathinaikos, winner of the European title just weeks ago and triumphant in the Greek Cup earlier this season, seemed in control early in last night’s contest. Panathinaikos led 28-20 at the end of the first period. But Olympiakos bounced back to lead 42-40 at the halftime break. The Piraeus team, which registered an impressive 43 percent success rate for its three-pointers, opened the third period with a three-pointer from center Yiannis Bourousis for a five-point lead, 45-40. Panathinaikos, sensing that the visitor was settling in, responded with a 9-0 run for a 49-45 lead. Coach Pini Gershon’s men launched a counterattack of their own to regain a narrow 52-51 lead with two shots on target from Andrija Zizic. From this point on the game was a seesaw affair with both teams alternating as front-runners. The third period ended with the underdog Olympiakos leading 63-60 and looking capable of upsetting their archrivals for a crack at the title before a home crowd on Sunday, when the two sides meet for Game 4. Olympiakos took a 66-61 lead early in the final term against a home team that looked unwell. Needing individual excellence to lift it, Panathinaikos found a solution in experienced center Dejan Tomacevic who helped put his side back in front, 77-73. A three-pointer from Acker brought Olympiakos within a point. Then the host’s Sani Becirovic won a foul and converted one of two free throws for a 78-76 lead. Following a dramatic finale, the teams ended deadlocked at 80-80. Panathinaikos was the cooler side in overtime to clinch victory after Diamantidis found the target with seconds remaining.

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