Panathinaikos coach Xavi Pascual admits that Fenerbahce were mentally tougher after a dramatic second half collapse led the Turkish side to an eventual 71-58 win in Game 1 of the EuroLeague Playoffs.
Up by as many as 16 points and seemingly coasting at half-time, leading 42-28 – Panathinaikos looked unstoppable – but the moment that the third quarter began, Fenerbahce’s focus changed as a 43-16 second half lifted them to victory and at the same time, quietened the sell-out 18,000 crowd that filled the OAKA in Athens.
Pascual couldn’t quite believe what was unfolding in front of him but the Spaniard witnessed his Panathinaikos side losing their confidence and mental toughness that had been on full display in the first two quarters.
“Fenerbahce scored 11 points on fast breaks and changed the game because of our bad offence clearly,” Pascual said. “This is why we lost. The best team doesn’t win the Playoffs, but the team which is mentally stronger. Fenerbahce was mentally stronger than us – when it was down by 16, it believed it could win. When Fenerbahce started to recover, we stopped playing and didn’t follow our rules on defence. We lost control of our emotions and this is why we lost.
“Fenerbahce was confident and hit every shot while we lost our confidence and were not able to get organized on offence.”
For Pascual and his players though, they have a chance to respond almost immediately with Game 2 on Thursday in front of what will be another sell-out in the Greek capital.
We know that we have a new opportunity on Thursday,” Pascual said.
“We have to prepare the game well, get ready mentally. This is just 1-0 and whoever wants to win the series needs three wins. We will try to play good games and if we do, we will have our chances to win.”