Panathinaikos OPAP Athens showed some major character as it bounced back from a heartbreaking loss with an impressive defensive showing while finally welcoming its new playmaker on Friday night.
Every team is going through some adversity these days, but Panathinaikos fought through its own problems to knock off also-undermanned Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 75-63 and end a five-game losing skid. In so doing, head coach Dimitris Priftis's men exhibited some of the progress they have made of late to get their first Turkish Airlines EuroLeague win of 2022.
"We have seen something in the last two weeks, through all the adversities and difficulties. That is very optimistic for us and our future. We have to keep on the same way," Priftis said after beating Baskonia.
The win over Baskonia came a week after Panathinaikos watched Anadolu Efes Istanbul hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer to prevail 82-81 in Turkey. That would have been the Greens' first road victory of the season but they left Adrien Moerman alone with the clock winding and he didn't forgive that mistake.
Against Baskonia, Nedovic led Panathinaikos in scoring with 16 points, production that was needed as the Greens were missing their top scorer, Daryl Macon Jr., against Baskonia. Also out of the game was center Georgios Papagiannis, who leads the EuroLeague in rebounding. Helping fill in his role was the duo of Jeremy Evans and Okaro White, who picked up 26 points and 7 rebounds combined.
"Now, it hurts even more that we lost against Efes, in the way we lost the game," Nedovic said. "But it is what it is."
Friday's victory was also highlighted by the season debut of point guard Stefan Jovic, who finally played his first game for the Greens after having been announced as a new signing on January 7.
The 31-year-old, who shares the EuroLeague's single-game record for assists with 19, gives Panathinaikos a major boost in terms of experience. He is playing now in his seventh EuroLeague season on top of two seasons in the 7DAYS EuroCup. Jovic finished the game with 6 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists for a performance index rating of 10 in 19 minutes of action.
"Of course, we have more experience," said Coach Priftis about Jovic's first game. "It was a little risky that we played him so many minutes. Maybe it would have been more rational to do it more progressively. But right now, with these injuries, we needed to use him so much. I hope he will be in shape soon."
Nedovic, for his part, talked about how the team is already better with Jovic on board.
"Stefan is a real point guard with EuroLeague experience," Nedovic said. "Already today, with just a couple of practices, he showed that he will be a big help. I'm looking forward to playing more with him."
The Greens may be at the far end of the standings, but how they answered a painful loss at Efes proves that they are still capable of impacting the playoffs race in one way or another.