The most outstanding aspect of Fenerbahce’s sweep of Panathinaikos wasn’t a big play or individual performance, it was how much more the Istanbul club still clearly has in the tank according to Emmet Ryan
Game 3 wasn’t like the first two. There was little drama, Fenerbahce rarely went into the well, and for large parts of it they were clearly working at a lower intensity to Panathinaikos. None of it mattered. They were just that good that the Istanbul club could play below their best and allow the visitors to tire themselves out. The final margin of 79-61 was emphatic and spoke to a much livelier display but it was a cold and systematic process over 40 minutes.
Even in the first frame it looked like PAO were going to struggle. The home side eased out in front before some epic hero ball from Nick Calathes woke up Panathinaikos. In the space of three plays Calathes hit a three, made a steal and scored, then made another steal which led to a KC Rivers three. It was the same through the second quarter. Panathinaikos were bringing all of the energy in this game. Kenny Gabriel had a BAH GAWD dunk and the defence was bringing lots of heat with double teams aplenty. PAO were fighting hard and Obradovic had to go deeper into his rotation than he would have liked early, bringing in Pero Antic who shot like a man who hasn’t been taking many shots of late. Another big dunk from Mike James and Panathinaikos had the demeanour of a side that could rock the favourites.
None of it mattered. PAO, for all that fire and hustle, only managed 13 points in the second frame and Fenerbahce moved further into command. Despite rarely looking close to their best, the home side eased into control. A James Nunnally three made it a two possession game and then, after Panathinaikos had run like hell, the home defence bit hard. Rope a dope at its simplest and most effective. They doused the flames so there were barely embers left. Rarely has a 7 point lead at the break looked so emphatic.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, the star of the first two games of the series, finally got on the mark shortly after the restart. You could still see Fener weren’t at their sharpest but they were doing just enough. It was all they needed to get by and that was fine. Another three from Nunnally. Control, so much control. The lead grew before the final quarter saw Fener erase all hope for Panathinaikos. A double-dagger from Bobby Dixon as he nailed a pair of threes to put the hosts well out of sight, along with the introductions of Ahmet Duverioglu and Anthony Bennett in clean-up duty, was all the crowd needed to know they will be making the short bus journey across the Bosphorous next month.
The win moves Obradovic’s playoff reign with Fenerbahce to 9-0. That’s nothing to sneeze at, the first two sweeps came against the defending champions and this one saw him finally win in the Oaka with Fener. With almost month to prepare for the Final Four, he knows there’s a lot more to get out of this side. This was a win at around 80 per cent of what his side can do. In the Sinan Erdem Dome, he’s knows they’ve got to keep it 100.