Panathinaikos is the 2010-11 Euroleague champion!
Panathinaikos won its sixth Euroleague title on Sunday evening by holding off Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 70-78 in the championship game of the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. Dimitris Diamantidis starred with 16 points and 9 assists becoming only the third person in history to win Final Four MVP honors twice and setting and tying breaking a pair of assists records along the way. Mike Batiste added 18 points, Drew Nicholas scored 14 and Romain Sato 13 to lead a well-balanced team effort. The win also adds a title for Panathianikos’s Zeljko Obradovic, who was already the winningest head coach in Euroleague history and now owns eight rings – the last five all with the Greens. Panathinaikos’s six titles make it second to only Real Madrid on the list of all-time champions. Panathinaikos controlled the paint, blocking several shots early and keeping All-Euroleague center Sofoklis Schortsanitis scoreless in the first half. Sofo got going for a bit in the third quarter and gave Maccabi a 36-35 lead, but it was short-lived. Drew Nicholas heated up and Romain Sato nailed 3 three-pointers in an 8-19 charge to finish the quarter ahead 43-54. Even after the lead hit 14 in the fourth quarter, Maccabi climbed to within 5 late only to have Diamantidis put the game away down the stretch. Maccabi, which was also targeting a sixth continental crown, got 17 points and 7 rebounds from Chuck Eidson. David Blu added 14, Jeremy Pargo scored 12 and dished 9 assists and Lior Eliyahu also netted 12.
Maccabi had the ball first, but a dropped pass cleared the way for a Diamantidis layup to open the scoring. Ian Vougioukas doubled the lead before Schortsanitis found Guy Pnini open in the corner for a triple. The Greens’ frontline was sharp early as Antonis Fotsis and Vougioukas came through with consecutive blocked shots to deny Maccabi. Vougioukas added to his strong start with a basket, but a loose ball foul was his second and brought him to the bench just three-and-a-half minutes into the game. Eidson knotted the score at 6-6, but Nick Calathes quickly put Panathinaikos back ahead with a baseline drive. Sofo set up Pargo at the rim and though he was fouled, he evened the score from the line. Fotsis attacked the offensive glass for a follow-up basket and Schortsanitis’s second foul. Despite another block inside, this time from Vougioukas’s replacement Aleks Maric, Pnini got the ball for triple and then Blu gave Maccabi its first lead of the night from the line, 13-11. Batiste came in and used a pick-and-roll with Calathes to get to the basket for his first score. Diamantidis red a Pargo pass perfectly and intercepted it for an easy layup. Then Batiste threw down a monster slam and the free throw that came with it to put the Greens up 13-18. Maccabi’s backup center, Richard Hendrix, pushed over Stratos Perperoglou on offense and also went out with 2 fouls, leaving head coach David Blatt to try Milan Macvan at center. Eidson scored a nice turnaround inside, but Batiste answered quickly and Diamantidis brought the Panathinaikos fans to their feet with a reverse layup, which, after Fotsis blocked Macvan inside, made it 15-22 after 10 minutes.
Eidson nailed a triple off a steal early in the second quarter, but Maccabi’s shooting woes inside kept the Israeli powerhouse from getting closer. Diamantidis came back with a clutch triple eliciting a roar from the Panathinaikos faithful. Eidson dished to Macvan inside and then he sank a jumper to narrow the gap to 22-25. Nicholas took control on a broken play and went into the heart of the Maccabi defense for a layup, but a red-hot Eidson countered with a tough shot on the shot-clock buzzer. During a TV timeout, Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic went to fresh legs by subbing four players. Calathes immediately fed Maric inside. Blu cut the gap to 2 with a three from the corner. Stratos Perperoglou ended a lengthy second-chance Panathinaikos possession with a jumper. After the next timeout, Maccabi struck from downtown through Blu to cut the deficit to a single point. Sato came right back with a long jumper. Sato stopped Eidson at the rim to help Panathinaikos keep a 30-33 lead at the half.
Nicholas fed Batiste inside to keep Panathinaikos up at the start of the second half, but Pargo drove the lane for an impressive spin move and finish that wowed everyone in Barcelona. Pargo looked to take charge and got to the line, where he closed the gap to 34-35. Schortsanitis’s first points of the night gave Maccabi its first lead since the first quarter. Nicholas fired back with a jumper as the lead switched hands. Eidson ran into Batiste and looked like he had run into a brick wall as he went down. Sato drilled back-to-back threes at the other end as Panathinaikos jumped to a 36-43 lead midway through the third quarter. Blu took Sato on and forced a layup-plus-foul to pick his team up. Nicholas had a three from the wing bounce up and in as the Green fans kept singing. Macvan and Batiste each got to the line and made 1. Batiste climbed up to reject Hendrix and Calathes soon raised the Panathinaikos lead to 9 with agive-nad-go with Batiste off the inbounds play. A Fotsis drive and slam put the Greens up 40-51 and Maccabi in panic mode. After a timeout, A triple by Blu gave the Maccabi fans hope, but Sato answered the same way. Eidson looked to beat the buzzer with a deep three, but it was ruled to be after the buzzer and Maccabi was faced with a 43-54 deficit to climb entering the fourth quarter.
An emphatic Schortsanitis slam was a good sign for Maccabi, but he followed that with his fourth foul. Pargo got to the hoop again only to see Nicholas come through from downtown for the Greens. Another Nicholas score made it 47-59 as the Panathinaikos fans looked as confident as ever. After a break in play, Diamantidis made it a 14-point gap from the line. Lior Eliyahu and Pnini scored to keep Maccabi somewhat in the picture. Another powerful throwdown by Batiste looked to lock up the win. Pargo and Eliyahu with a basket-plus-foul kept Panathinaikos from celebrating early, closing to 56-63 with four-and-a-half minutes left. Batiste, after missing 2 free throws, saved the ball and then scored down low. And Nicholas went for the dagger with a pull-up jumper that made it 56-67 with 3:19 on the clock. Eliyahu missed a makeable layup and Eidson made just 1 from the line as Maccabi’s chances continued fading. Maccabi and its fans kept believing and caused Panathinaikos to worry when an Eliyahu tip-in with 1:20 remaining made it 64-69. Diamantidis made sure to ice the game with a pass inside to Batiste for a crucial basket and a steal and free throws with 55 seconds to go, signaling that it was time to start the celebrations.
Sunday, May 8, 2011