Panathinaikos got their first win of their 2013/14 Euroleague campaign, easily overcoming a shorthanded Laboral Kutxa in a packed Eleftheria Sports Arena, in Euroleague’s first ever venture in Cyprus.
Panathinaikos set the tone early, after taking a 5-2 lead with five consecutive points by Maciulis, first with a corner three and then a layup. Having just 9 players available, it was Nocioni who took the team on his shoulders and with four straight points, including an and1 action, cut Panathinaikos lead to 9-6. Panathinaikos heavily refreshed their lineup to take advantage of Laboral Kutxa’s short rotation and kept increasing the lead, until it reached double score levels, 20-10. The ten points difference remained until the end of the first, 26-16.
Laboral Kutxa couldn’t tighten their inside defense in the second quarter either, which cause a plethora of problems for the Basque side, resulting in easy Panathinaikos points. After Jelinek’s threepointer for 31-22, Panathinaikos had a 13-2 run for 44-24. Nocioni kept being the only reliable offensive solution for the “away” team, scoring 15 of his team’s 35 points at half time. Diop’s inexperience at such level showed as his poor defensive effort and reading of the game allowed Panathinaikos to run the same play for five minutes, which resulted in an unmarked Fotsis right under Laboral Kutxa’s basket every time. However Scariolo’s team managed to run a last moment 5-0 run, which resulted in half time’s final score, 50-35.
It is worth mentioning that the 6.500 capacity arena was packed for well over half an hour before the tip-off and the enthusiastic basketball-thirsty fans in Cyprus enjoyed a high level Euroleague for the first time. Euroleague should really explore into holding more of their games in non-Euroleague countries, for both development and marketing reasons.
Panathinaikos started the second half in fashion, shooting the lights out from behind the arc, with Diamantidis making two threes, while Maciulis added another one. Jelinek had an answer and with four points in a row, to make the score 65-49, something that made Pedoulakis ask for a timeout. The timeout resulted in a 5-0 run by The Greens. Panathinaikos totally blocked Nocioni in the third quarter, as the Argentinian veteran remained scoreless. Laboral Kutxa’s inside defense kept being below average, which result in Gist totaling 8 points, all with an uncontested dunk. The third quarter ended wth Panathinaikos increasing their lead even further, 77-56.
In a last quarter which had only a procedural value, Nocioni regained his scoring touch in the fourth quarter and reached 23 points, while also grabbing 12 rebounds, but it was all too little too late for his team, which saw Panathinaikos maintaining a comfortable lead, taking advantage of their good ball passing and good field goal percentage. Mike Bramos scored his seventh threepointer of the game, while Jelinek kept being his team’s second most reliable points producer.
Although Sergio Scariolo didn’t prepare his team well enough for tonight’s game, it must be mentioned that his hands were pretty much tied, as he was forced to field a 9-men squad for the game, after injury stricken San Emeterio and Kelati remained in Vitoria, while Kaukenas who was signed to a month-long contract and arrived to Cyprus yesterday didn’t make the squad.
The final score found Panathinaikos as the winner 95-74 which was accompanied by an extended standing ovation by 6500 fans who remained at the stands even after the players retreated to the locker rooms, dancing to Euroleague’s devotion anthem. Truly a remarkable basketball night, which only a competition like Euroleague could deliver.
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