PAO is close to elimination

Panathinaikos may have won the European basketball championship last Sunday, but it is now facing elimination from the finals of the Greek championship after yesterday’s 89-80 home defeat at the hands of archrival Olympiakos in the first match of their semifinal playoffs. The rather unexpected star of the game was Olympiakos forward Stephane Risacher, a member of the French national team, who has played solidly but not spectacularly for his team. On this night he was the scoring leader with 25 points, making five of his six three-point attempts. The playoffs are best-of-three, which means Panathinaikos must win tomorrow at Olympiakos’s home ground to avoid elimination. Panathinaikos fans flocked to the Olympic Arena at Maroussi – no Olympiakos fans attended – to hail their idols for their European triumph. It seemed they would have an ample opportunity to do so, as Olympiakos’s offense hardly functioned in the first quarter. Panathinaikos opened up a 17-8 lead with just over a minute to go, but Olympiakos closed the gap to 19-14 by the end of the quarter. Panathinaikos led 23-18 early in the second quarter and then went scoreless for four minutes, allowing Olympiakos to make a 14-0 run to turn the tide. It was 42-34 at halftime, with Olympiakos dominating rebounding. The second half began with an altercation which saw two guards, Olympiakos’s Milan Tomic and Panathinaikos’s Damir Mulaomerovic, ejected. Panathinaikos swingman Dejan Bodiroga ought to have been ejected as well. In any case, the incident appeared to have affected him, since he was ineffective for most of the rest of the game. Olympiakos controlled the game throughout the second half, with Panathinaikos making an occasional run but never threatening seriously. At the end of the third quarter, Olympiakos led 66-53 and none of the several lineup changes by Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic worked.