Panathinaikos point guard Nick Calathes comes off a historic season in which he set two single-season Turkish Airlines EuroLeague records in assists – 249 total and 8.03 on average – as well as a single-game playoffs record with 16, his personal high.
As the new season dawned on Thursday, Calathes looked ready to improve on those numbers. The Panathinaikos point guard finished his team's 89-84 victory over Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv with 14 assists after having dished 8 before halftime and 6 more in the third quarter of a tight game. Just when it looked as though he would break his personal high – and maybe even contest the all-time EuroLeague single-game record of 19 assists – Calathes's production stopped. And that, in an odd way, might be a great news for the Greens, who were accustomed to going as far as Calathes can take them.
But on Thursday, it was not Calathes, but rather everyone else making crucial plays in the fourth quarter. On this rare occasion, with Maccabi's DeAndre Kane playing very aggressive defense to force the ball out of his hands, Calathes had 0 assists, 2 turnovers and 2 missed shot attempts in the fourth quarter. However, Panathinaikos's control of the game only got stronger.
Matt Lojeski netted 9 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer with 2:11 to go to open an 85-77 margin. DeShaun Thomas came up with important rebounds and an impossible triple. James Gist made an assist on one end and a game-sealing steal on the other. Stephane Lasme protected the rim. And Nikos Pappas took over point guard duties to come up with key baskets down the stretch.
Panathinaikos was far from perfect in its opening night victory, but with Nick Calathes going a little cold for a change, Coach Xavi Pascual's team still flashed enormous potential.