Super Six for Panathinaikos (pics+vid)

Panathinaikos have won their sixth Euroleague title and their third in five years, as they defeated Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv 78-70 at the Palau Saint Jordi in Barcelona.

Dimitris Diamantidis scooped MVP honours with 16 points and nine assists. Winning his third award of the Euroleague season, but there was no doubt as to what meant the most. {jathumbnail off}

“A lot of good things happened to me this weekend but this is the best one – winning the Euroleague title,” Diamantidis commented.

“The feeling of winning it three times is great. Every trophy you win is great. This is why you practice hard and why you play basketball. That’s our life – maybe we succeed, maybe sometimes not, but we have to give 100% and that’s the most important thing.”

It was a deserved victory for coach Zeljko Obradovic – who has now won eight Euroleague rings in total. More than any coach in Euroleague history. He dedicated the win to his old assistant coach at DKV Joventut Badalona Jose Maria Izquierdo, who recently lost his father.

“I am very happy that we are champions of Europe again. I want to congratulate my players because they have worked very hard all season,” Obradovic stated.

“I would like to take this opportunity to say that I received a message before the game from my old assistant coach in Joventut Badalona Jose Maria Izquierdo. I had left two tickets for him to attend the final, and he wanted to come, but was unable to because of the death of his father. I want to dedicate this win to him because he is a great friend and a great man.”

It was never meant to be for Maccabi. They hung with Panathinaikos in the early stages, taking a 10-8 lead through Guy Pnini. This was answered by a 7-0 run by the greens. And led by the motivated Diamantidis, ended the first period up 22-15.

Maccabi were not their normal selves. This was a side who had dominated the group stages and came into the Final Four as favourites. But what was seen was Greek center Sofoklis Schortsanitis, normally a bully under the basket, getting worked on and out-thought by the Pana defenders. Jeremy Pargo unsettled and forcing turnovers. Chuck Eidson was the only player that was giving Maccabi any kind-of hope.

Despite that, Panathinaikos were a little nervous going up-court in the second quarter. Their shooting was a little erratic. But they held a 33-30 lead at the half.

Maccabi started brightly in the third, cutting the lead to one at 36-37, when Romain Sato hit back-to-back triples to give the greens a 43-36 lead.

Panthinaikos would never trail again.

Antonis Fotis scored to give Pana a double-digit lead at 51-40 and would lead 54-43 heading into the final stanza.

Maccabi’s heads were down – they looked a beaten team already.

Panathinaikos went down a gear in the final period, allowing Tel-Aviv a glimmer of hope – as the yellows cut the deficit to 69-64 with over a minute left, forcing Obradovic to call his troops in to calm their nerves.

It worked as Diamantidis fed Mike Batiste for the dagger score. Gate 13 was going nuts. The songs began, and the game was over.

“We knew there were holes in their defence, man or zone,” Batiste said. “We wanted to swing the ball and make the defence move, penetrate and make guys help, then pass out and penetrate again.”

It was Batiste who led all scorers in victory with 18 points. Maccabi’s Chuck Eidson scored 17 points in defeat.

Note – Once the game had finished. Maccabi Tel-Aviv locked the doors from the inside of their locker room and observed a minute silence, as Israel began its Memorial day. A day where sport is not permitted. Euroleague changed the tip-off time by moving it two hours before the scheduled tip-off time, at the request of Maccabi Tel-Aviv.

John Hobbs for TalkBasket.Net

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More photos of the Final Game and Awards Ceremony

(courtesy of Getty Images)