Credit: Vangelis Stolis
Credit Vangelis Stolis

Panathinaikos forced arch-rivals Olympiacos to their first home defeat of the season, coming out with a big win (81-76) at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, 1100 days since the last time the two teams had locked horns on the domestic front.

2-pointers this season

56%
19,8
Points made: 19,8
Accuracy: 56,0%
Place in standings: 8
Record max: 24
Record min: 15
Most made 2FGs: Moustapha Fall

After a balanced first half (33-36), Olympiacos broke the game open in the third quarter thanks to Moustapha Fall's dominance in the paint and Sasha Vezenkov's excellent shooting.

Nevertheless, the Greens had the final word, as Nemanja Nedovic hit three 'daggers', while Ioannis Papapetrou, Leonidas Kasselakis, and Howard Sant-Roos followed suit.

Panathinaikos scored 33 points on 6/8 from downtown in the derby's final stretch, as the hosts could not capitalize on some open looks. Thomas Walkup missed consecutive three-point shots, Vezenkov misfired three times from the charity stripe, and Olympiacos's home winning streak came to an end.

"Panathinaikos played a zone defense throughout the game, trying to get us out of our rhythm. When we were up by 14, we had opportunities to finish the game, while Panathinaikos seemed to be struggling.

As the gap closed, we put pressure on ourselves," the Reds' coach, Giorgos Bartzokas, commented in the post-game presser.

Credit Vangelis Stolis

"We had a lot of opportunities to finish the game because we adjusted to their zone, but unfortunately, we were 0/9 on three-pointers in the fourth quarter, most of them were completely open.

Panathinaikos got confident, made some very difficult shots, and got the momentum. Unfortunately, being considered the favorite put pressure on us," Bartzokas went on to say.

"I think we have a good team this year, it's just that today everything was against us. This defeat won't affect us. Unfortunately, today we did not meet the expectations of our fans."

However, the Greek tactician saw a silver lining. 

"From such defeats, teams can only grow stronger. We have to get better - and we will," he pointed out. 

On the other end, the atmosphere in Panathinaikos's locker room was nothing short of celebratory. Players were taking selfies, and chants were to be heard all over.

More than anything, this result gives the reigning Greek champs some room to breathe. The Greens were coming off a dismal 0-5 run in the EuroLeague and, on top of that, were yet to register their first win away from OAKA. 

"I hope that this result will give us the self-confidence that we need going forward," coach Dimitris Priftis said before extending his gratitude to the team's fans.

"I want to thank our fans that came to OAKA before the game to encourage us. We have let them down many times this season. It was an important game because, besides the two points that we got, those types of contests are special for the fans- and they are an integral part of our club."

Speaking of fans, they first waited for the team to depart from OAKA and head to Piraeus. After the game, they escorted players and staff from the Greek Parliament at Syntagma Square in the center of Athens back to OAKA, lighting flares and singing chants.

Credit Vangelis Stolis

When Panathinaikos team finally arrived at the OAKA parking area, in front of the team's locker room entrance, almost 1,000 die-hard fans were waiting for Priftis and his players to come out of the bus to give them special treatment.

Of course, social distancing - and masks for that matter- was out of the question, as fans were trying to get as close to their heroes as possible. 

Credit Vangelis Stolis
Credit Vangelis Stolis
Credit Vangelis Stolis

"Olympiacos got a big lead at some point. We made consecutive turnovers, and it was important that we didn't lose our minds. We managed to make some tough shots and win.

I congratulate my players on the win. They played with the DNA becoming of a big team like Panathinaikos," Priftis stressed.

Credit Vangelis Stolis

Like Bartzokas, Priftis also commented on the Greens' choice to use a zone defense, a tactic that worked miracles since they managed to come back from -14 (59-45) with eleven minutes remaining.

"As a coach, I want to try and help my team. We chose a different logic to change the course of the game and enhance our offense," he explained.

"I would like us to show some stability and play with less hesitation and self-confidence from now on. It would be a pity not to build on tonight's performance going into the next games.

I can't say we weren't motivated enough in other games because we could have won some of the EuroLeague games we lost, like in Munich or against UNICS."

Credit Vangelis Stolis

Nemanja Nedovic turned into the man of the match as the Serbian hit one big three after the other down the stretch. Priftis is well aware of how important Nedovic's charismatic presence can be for his squad.

"We would be a different team if Nedovic had been all-year-long as he was tonight. When he played well, we beat Efes and Fener. I believe that he will be consistent from now on. Olympiacos are a team who play well man-to-man defense," Panathinaikos's coach said.

His closing statement best summarizes what those Greek derbies are all about.

"Those games sometimes work as a placebo. It's like taking a pill and being in a good mood for a while. But what matters are the games to follow," Priftis concluded.

That pill will definitely need no prescription, at least for now. PAO's upcoming Zenit game (next Thursday) can wait.

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2022-01-10
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