SPORTS

Panathinaikos is just a small step away from its seventh basketball title in a row

Panathinaikos has moved even closer to winning its seventh basketball league championship in succession after its emphatic 91-64 win over Olympiakos on Monday night in Game 2 of the final series. The Greens are now leading 2-0 in the best-of-five series and could clinch the championship tomorrow (10.30 p.m.) at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus, completing a sweep of their challengers. Entirely outclassed by its host at the OAKA Indoor Arena, Olympiakos showed some resistance in the first half, but most of its players were nothing like the stars that led the Piraeus club to the top spot in regular season play. Panathinaikos took a 21-11 lead at the end of the first period, thanks to 11 unanswered points that overturned Olympiakos’s early advantage (4-8). The second period saw the last of Olympiakos’s resistance as the 26-15 lead was cut to 26-22. Yet after a timeout by Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic, the Greens started to take off and ended the first half with a 10-point cushion (39-29) once again. From then on, Olympiakos surrendered completely, as 20,000 Panathinaikos fans watched their team score basket after basket and take its lead to 20 points with 12 minutes left (58-38). Flare stops game It was at that point that the match was stopped for 10 minutes because a flare thrown from the stands set a sports bag next to the Olympiakos bench on fire. According to reports, a cell phone also hit Olympiakos forward Nikola Vujcic. These incidents forced Panathinaikos owners Pavlos and Thanassis Giannakopoulos to step onto the court and plead with fans to behave themselves. Once the game resumed, Panathinaikos kept its foot on the gas and took the lead to as much as 32 points (83-51), before settling for a 27-point triumph in the end. The game was led by its US stars Mike Batiste and Drew Nicholas, who scored 18 and 11 points respectively, while Sarunas Jasikevicius registered 13 points in just 16 minutes of play. Nevertheless, Obradovic, putting aside the result, had some strong words for the few fans who marred Panathinaikos’s win. «This was a shame for Panathinaikos and basketball [in general],» said the Serb coach about the objects thrown by the crowd. «How stupid can they be when they hurl objects while their team is leading by 20 points?» he wondered. «They showed that they did not come to watch basketball but only to do other things. I am asking them never to come again to see Panathinaikos,» he stressed. «We do not want such fans at Panathinaikos, and I am talking about them not because they are the only ones to do these things, but because I work for Panathinaikos and they are some of our fans.» Obradovic called for far stricter measures, such as those in soccer’s Champions League final tonight in Rome. He also called on fans who see others hurling objects to stop them or identify them to the guards. Panathinaikos will likely face a one- or two-match ban for its fans’ behavior. Regarding the match, Obradovic only said: «The difference in the score does not matter. We still have to win one more game.» Olympiakos coach Panayiotis Giannakis apologized to Olympiakos fans for the team’s performance, while the club decided to punish the team’s players with silence. Upon the Olympiakos squad’s return to Piraeus, some 150 fans rallied against them in protest at their performance and clashed with police in the early hours of yesterday. A sports judge on Monday imposed a two-game penalty on Olympiakos for the actions of its fans in Game 1 of the finals, which will apply next season, unless Olympiakos wins the next two games and the final series is decided in a fifth match. Should that be the case, the title decider (Game 5) will be played behind closed doors. Aris hosts Maroussi Today will see Game 3 of the third-place finals between Aris and Maroussi. The best-of-five series is tied at 1-1 and Aris will be the host at 5 p.m. in Thessaloniki, hoping to record its second win. Coaches Andrea Mazzon of Aris and Soulis Markopoulos of Maroussi will be able to field full-strength teams in their quest for the win that will give them the advantage for Greece’s third spot in next season’s Euroleague. Game 4 will take place on Saturday in Maroussi. Should a fifth game be required, it will be held in Thessaloniki next Wednesday.