Vassilis Spanoulis was once against the star as Olympiacos made history with another high-paced performance leading the Piraeus club to a 93-74 victory over Panathinaikos and with it a 3-0 series sweep to take the Greek title
It hasn’t been a fun 2015 for the Greens of Athens. Save for their victory in the Greek Cup final in April, it’s been a six months of steady decline and their miserable run was capped by being swept in the Greek League Finals for the first time in their history.
Keeping the game tight was the goal for Panathinaikos from the off. The Greens went into the SEF knowing that defeat would end their season and the best way to avoid that was to drag Olympiacos into a scrap. For the first frame it went pretty much to plan with 3 threes keeping the score tight despite the visitors looking less threatening on offence. The Reds however had learned they were the better of the two in a track meet and they ramped things up big time in the second quarter.
A 35-27 frame opened up a 12 point lead for Olympiacos at the half. It was the sheer depth of options that enabled the home side to take command. If Vassilis Spanoulis wasn’t there, Giorgios Printezis, Tremmell Darden, and Othello Hunter were all happy to step in. It was this variety of offence that the Greens couldn’t live with. Olympiacos were spreading the ball around and making shots. They weren’t going to let Panathinaikos dictate the pace in their own barn and only immense personal efforts by AJ Slaughter and Vlado Giankovits kept this from being a rout at the half.
The Greens looked brighter to star the third, quickly cutting the gap to just 5 points but the Reds were still happy to push the pace. Spanoulis fed Printezis on a fast-break as the home team looked to tire Panathinaikos once more. A further three from Spanoulis restored the half-time advantage and the Greens needed a rest to regroup. The pressure however kept coming as Hunter stretched the lead to 17 from the line. A Matt Lojeski three made it a 20 point game and the Reds were strolling to history.
The decline of Panathinaikos this season, particularly since the new year, has been slow but obvious. The Greens backed their way into the Euroleague playoffs before being comfortably dispatched by CSKA Moscow. This isn’t the force that once dominated. The names that are familiar of those days are few in number and getting on in years. Dimitris Diamantidis is still a monster on occasion but he no longer has the body to carry PAO through a series. DDD needed real help and on a regular basis. For all the slide, a sweep at the hands of the Reds was unthinkable.
The tone however had been set in the second half of Game 1. Having reeked from the field in the opening 20 minutes, Olympiacos came out of their shell and forced Panathinaikos into a more open game. A higher scoring than usual clash in Game 2 gave the deeper and faster Reds the road win to set up this unexpected piece of history in Piraeus. A three from Diamantidis to close the third restored some dignity for the Greens but they were en route to being on the wrong end of a rout.
The fourth was in essence a procession, a rather fast procession but 10 minutes with an air of clear inevitabiltiy nonetheless. For Olympiacos it was sweet revenge after getting swept by the Greens in these finals two years ago. That series ended in a forfeit but the SEF was a scene of celebration this time. Spanoulis finished with 23 points and the disappointment of Madrid last month was forgotten, all the easier when you win the last game of the year.