Sunday, May 08, 2011

Panathinaikos Captures Sixth Euroleague Title

Panathinaikos (PAO) outlasted Maccabi Tel Aviv, 78-70, on Sunday in Barcelona to secure their sixth Euroleague title. PAO keeps their odd-year pattern of titles intact ('07, '09) alive to win their third title in five years.

Tightly contested game in 1st half but PAO took ownership of it in the 3rd thanks to some timely outside shooting. They drilled four 3pts. (three by Romain Sato) in the quarter to help extend the lead to 11 to start the 4th. They did a similar thing in the '09 final vs. CSKA by taking control of the game thanks to 3pt. barrage in the 2nd quarter.

PAO's help defense on the baseline was superb and had multiple bodies sucking into the painted area anytime the ballhandler approached. Seemed like nearly every shot was contested.

A main objective of the Maccabi offense is to keep the basket area clear and initiate the offense up high. They try to get the defense to overplay on the perimeter. But PAO rarely bit and stayed disciplined by having the backline stay at home.

PAO held Maccabi to a paltry 37% from the field--Maccabi came into this weekend leading the EL in FG pct. at a 49% clip. On some possessions it was hard to tell if PAO was in a matchup zone or some kind of switching man. Whatever the case, it seemed to work.

Maccabi spent plenty of possessions in their matchup zone but still could not consistently contain PAO's vaunted high pick/roll action. PAO shot 48% overall and 66% of their shots were assisted.

Dimis Diamantidis won the Euroleague MVP trophy Saturday and he backed it up by leading PAO with 16 pts, 9 assts, 5 rebs & 2 stls. He only shot 5-for-15 with four TOs, but Dimis still ran the offense with a deft touch--half of his 14 pick/roll plays led to made baskets & 17 pts. Had a key role in setting up Sato & Batiste for a chunk of their buckets. Great job as usual letting passing angles develop and nobody better at making passes back against the grain.

Dimis would've have been the perfect answer to the Lakers PG woes. Phil would've love him--a better version of Ron Harper. Dimis would fit nicely in the backcourt with Wade & LeBron as well. It's just too bad he seems to have no interest in the NBA. Have to think this win puts Dimis in the running for entry into the Naismith Hall of Fame: three EL titles, one EuroBasket title, one Worlds silver, EL MVP and one of the best defenders ever in Europe.

After Dimis, Romain Sato was next best all-around player of the day. Sato was huge to PAO's 3rd quarter run, nailing three 3pts. (including two in a row to push the lead to seven pts.) and finished with 13 pts & 7 rebs. Plus, Sato was a help defender deluxe all game, particularly along the baseline.

Anytime PAO need a big shot, Drew Nicholas would oblige in the 2nd half, netting 12 of his 14 pts in the last 20 mins. Drew hit a long pull-up 2pt. off high pick/roll to regain the lead midway thru 3rd (PAO would never trail after this), a transition 3pt. early in the 4th, running banker with shot clock running down in the 4th and drilled a big pull-up 3pt. off of isolation with 3:20 left in game.

Per usual, Mike Batiste (18 pts on 7-of-10, 6 rebs) did most of his damage rolling to bucket off high p/r or cutting to the rim. But his biggest bucket of the game came off a quick flash cut post-up on Pargo to give PAO a 71-64 lead with a minute left.

Antonis Fotsis (5 pts, 7 rebs) capped off his quality EL season with a great defensive display on-the-ball and as a helper. Often was switched onto perimeter players and did a fine job staying in front and contesting.

Nick Calathes once again played a heady floor game and ran the offense with a steady hand (4 pts, 6 assts, 1 TO). Maybe just as key, Calathes did a commendable job staying with Pargo. Don't ever remember him getting burned by the more explosive Pargo. Thought Nick defending Pargo could be a problem for PAO, but Calathes held his own. He has really stepped up this year in V. Spanoulis's absence and showed he could hang at the highest level of basketball outside the NBA. I think he could be a solid reserve in the league and potentially pairs well with a player like Roddy Beaubois.

Jeremy Pargo rarely found much space to operate as PAO's guarded him well and the bigs were always ready to help. When Pargo tried to get in the lane, he had a guard riding him and extra bodies were coming to protect the rim. He did finish a couple drives at the rim but they were all tough shots under duress.

Pargo was held to 4-of-12 shooting with 6 TOs, but did manage 12 pts, 9 assts, 5 rebs & 2 stls. This loss shouldn't take away from Pargo's strong EL season and have to believe he's got the goods to be at least a reserve combo guard in the NBA.

Lior Eliyahu (Rockets hold rights) was a non-factor during the first three quarters, then helped Maccabi stay around late in the game by scoring all his 12 pts in the last seven minutes. Multi-purpose wing Chuck Eidson kept Maccabi involved in the 1st half by tossing in 12 of his 17 pts, some were from his patented off-balance repetoire. David Blu (14 pts) did what he does--knock down jumpers, 3-of-6 3PA.

Maccabi's 2nd-leading scorer Sofo Schortsanitis only managed four points after 16 pts in the semis. Not surprising he picked up his second foul six minutes into the game and only managed 14 mins. of floor time. This is the danger of having Sofo as your 2nd scoring option, especially in a one-n-done scenario--he's too foul-prone for that role to be counted on every game.

Anytime Sofo touched the ball on the block, PAO defenders were quick to collapse around him. Sofo did not have too many opportunities to score because of the doubling, but thought he did a decent job of passing out (3 assts), something he's improved on.

Expect both teams to be serious contenders for the title next season. Maccabi still has the Israeli league playoffs to look forward to, where they are the fave to win the title. Panathinaikos just advanced to the Greek league semis and are likely headed for a showdown with rival Olympiacos in the finals, where Oly is the slight fave.


At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post proves once again that this is the best basketball blog - by far.

I wish I would see Diamantidis play for an NBA contender in need of a highly intelligent floor general but that will never happen it seems.

At 12:23 AM, Anonymous Emili Paz said...

I agree with the commentor above. This is a very insightful and useful article about the recent Final Four title game. Panathinaikos had a lot of contribution from its key players and Maccai just could not put together the right formula that would enable them to raise the trophy instead. Everyone who had a role to play delivered them and it was all it takes to help the team succeed.

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