Panathinaikos begin their Euroleague Top 16 campaign at the OAKA against Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv on Tuesday in Group E as they aim to bounce back from three straight defeats in the regular season.
The short winter break might be a blessing for the Greek side as they prepare to face the current Euroleague champions, who have won five of their last six games in the competition. But Maccabi might be without December’s MVP Devin Smith, Sofoklis Schortsanitis and swingman Sylven Landesberg for the trip to Athens.
Still, Panathinaikos coach Dusko Ivanovic remains cautious.
“This will be our first game for the Top 16 of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague,” Ivanovic said. “And it is a very important game because we are going to play in our home court and we have to defend it.
“Maccabi Tel Aviv are the current Euroleague Champions, they are tough team, we respect them but we must be ready to play hard and give our 100 percent to win this game.”
The other Group E encounter being played on Tuesday will see Zalgiris look to begin their Top 16 odyssey with a win as they travel to Istanbul to face Galatasaray.
Despite the financial problems that face Galatasaray, they have still been able to bolster their squad ahead of the Top 16 and will still be a match for anyone, which is something that Zalgiris’s leading scorer James Anderson is highly aware of.
The American, currently averaging 17 points a game is focused on getting what would be an already vital road win.
“We want to start with a road win,” Anderson said. “At the Top 16 we have to take our game to another level. We need to get to the rhythm and it would be really helpful for us to start on a high note.
“We have to do our best every night and to go game by game. Galatasaray is first in our schedule. It is strong opponent, but if we bring everything to the table we can get a win there.”
The two games start the Euroleague Top 16, with six more games to be played on Friday, January 2.