The Greek derby turned into a little celebration of career highs and club records for Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in Piraeus, as the Greens bested their archrivals Olympiacos Piraeus on Friday night.
Their 77-88 triumph might have not come the way one would have expected. The Greens clicked offensively from the start and ended up one point shy of their season-high scoring mark for a road game, never showing they were missing EuroLeague's fourth-best scorer Nemanja Nedovic.
"We missed Nedovic, but our guards stepped up and filled that role", coach Oded Kattash pointed out after the game.
The guards Kattash credited were Howard Sant-Roos and Eleftherios Bochiridis, who both had career-best performances at Peace and Friendship Stadium. Sant-Roos scored a personal high of 20 points on 4-for-6 three-point shooting to go with 5 assists and 2 steals for a career-best PIR of 27.
Sant-Roos's three-point shooting was a big confidence booster for the Greens, especially in their timing. His first long-distance shot capped a 0-13 first-quarter run and give Panathinaikos its first double-digit lead. He then sank 2 triples at the start of the third quarter to restore an 11-point lead. Then, early in the fourth quarter, when Olympiacos rallied to within 59-61, Sant-Roos's fourth triple changed the momentum and Panathinaikos was never in danger the rest of the way.
It was the sixth double-digit scoring performance from Sant-Roos this season, while Bochoridis had his second consecutive double-digit performance. He scored 15 points, eclipsing a career-high of 12 he set last week in a win over Valencia Basket. Bochoridis made 5 of his 6 shots from the floor in 19 minutes off the bench.
"Lately, I am taking more chances, I have the ball more in my hands," Bochoridis explained. "I am trying to do my best, and I am very happy we also have the results."
Sant-Roos and Bochoridis each also made 4 free throw attempts without a miss, which would not be much of a story if Panathinaikos did not set a club record with 25 perfect free throws on the night. It was also the second-highest free throw total without a miss by any team in a EuroLeague game this century, behind only 34 made by Real Madrid almost 19 years ago.
It was a perfect example of the focus that Panathinaikos players had in this game, but Coach Kattash saw other reasons why his team won its fourth game in the last six.
"It is great numbers, pretty unique and special, but for me, the way we answered on rebounding, [how]we used our fouls smartly, we were communicating, we were aggressive..., " Kattash said. "For me, those things showed me that the players are ready."
Indeed, their 16 offensive rebounds made for the sixth time in the last seven games that the Greens pulled down at least 12 offensive boards. That's proof that few teams are currently playing as focused and as determined basketball as Panathinaikos has been in recent weeks.