Calathes powers Panathinaikos into playoffs
Panathinaikos OPAP Athens surged into the playoffs with a commanding 87-67 home victory over Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, securing a sixth-place finish and a playoff matchup with Real Madrid for the second consecutive season. Nick Calathes once again orchestrated his team's efforts, registering the competition's first triple-double since 2006 with 11 points, a career-high 18 assists and 11 rebounds. James Gist also excelled, pairing a season-high 23 points with 6 rebounds. DeShaun Thomas added 17 points and Ioannis Papapetrou had 12 points and 8 boards. The early stages were closely contested, but Panathinaikos surged clear before halftime and was never in serious danger after that. Buducnost finished the season with a 6-24 record. Teenage big man Goga Bitadze paced the visitors with 16 points and 8 rebounds and Norris Cole scored 14.
Georgios Papagiannis and Sean Kilpatrick kept Panathinaikos in touch early on as Bitadze and Earl Clark both struck triples. It was tied at 13-13 after 5 minutes. Three-pointers from Keith Langford and Gist sent Panathinaikos ahead, but 4 quick points from Danilo Nikolic pulled the visitors back to 23-21 at the end of the first. Nikolic and Bitadze brought Buducnost level early in the second. Cole scored three consecutive baskets for a 30-32 lead. Free throws pushed Panathinaikos in front and Gist scored twice from close range for a 42-34 edge. A triple and a layup from Thomas stretched that lead, which became 49-36 after Calathes and Gist beat the halftime buzzer with a trademark alley-oop. Edwin Jackson started the second half with a triple, but Thomas responded in kind and strong defense kept the hosts well ahead during a low-scoring passage of play. Gordic drained a pair of triples to reignite Buducnost, which completed a 0-8 run with a Filip Barovic basket. Gist and Calathes got Panathinaikos moving again, but Clark struck from deep and it was 66-56 after three quarters. James Bell's three-pointer briefly got the margin down to single digits, but more free throws steadied Panathinaikos and a transition dunk by Gist off another Calathes assist removed all doubt as the final stages were played in a celebratory atmosphere.
Calathes close to assists record
In addition to recording the competition's first triple-double since 2006, Panathinaikos point guard Nick Calathes also set a new personal best for assists with 18. That blew away his previous high of 16 and took him very close to tying the EuroLeague's single-game record of 19, set by Stefan Jovic for Crvena Zvezda against Bayern Munich in 2015.
Second quarter run seals deal
Buducnost fought hard early and led 30-32 with 6 minutes of the first half remaining. But then a mid-range strike from Ian Vougioukas sparked a strong Panathinaikos surge to finish the half, with a 19-4 run establishing a double-digit halftime lead which Buducnost was never able to threaten.
Free throws lift Panathinaikos
In addition to Calathes's heroics, another notable stat was the home side attempting a season-high 29 shots from the free throw line. 21 of those were made, including 4 in the space of 71 seconds during the key second-quarter run as Panathinaikos raced clear. Importantly, the physical approach of Buducnost saw big men Goga Bitadze and Filip Barovic both reach 3 fouls before halftime and eventually foul out.
Panathinaikos will meet Real Madrid in the playoffs after a week-long break. The first and second games will be played in the Spanish capital in the week commencing 15 April. Buducnost has completed its first EuroLeague season since 2002-03 and will aim to return to next season's competition by winning the Adriatic League playoffs.
Thursday, April 4, 2019