What an amazing game. Let’s be honest though, after Maccabi lost last week in Israel all the momentum shifted towards the Greek and most experts believed that Maccabi would get crushed in Athens for the deciding 5th game in the series, but that’s not what happened at all. In fact this game had to be one of the best games in Euroleague playoff history. This game had all the right ingredients for a perfect rivalry game. Maccabi lost to the Greeks last year in the Euroleague championship and were hoping to get some revenge. Let’s also not forget that Panathinaikos’s starting point guard is Sarunas Jasikevicius who had won back-to-back Euroleague titles with Maccabi in 2004 and 2005 and is still considered a fan favorite among Maccabi fans.
Maccabi came out very aggressive and showed that this would not be easy night for the Greeks. At the end of the first quarter the yellow-and-blue had a slim 20-18 lead. Which at the time may have not seemed like a lot but every point in this game would end up being crucial. In the second quarter the Greeks completely outplayed Maccabi and outscored them 23-12.
In the third quarter the Greeks kept their lead and went in to the fourth quarter with a 62-53 advantage. At that point most Maccabi fans believed this game was over, so let’s give credit to Head Coach David Blatt who was able to motivate his players to play an excellent 4th quarter. The 4thquarter was completely dominated by Maccabi, who found a way to go on a 12-0 run,which put them right back in the game. With 11 seconds left in the game and down by three points,Maccabi was in need of either a quick two or a three pointer to tie. Guy Pnini shot a three and was fouled,something the Greek fans did not agree with. Regardless Pnini hit all three
free throws under enormous amount of pressure and the game was suddenly tied at 85. Everyone in Athens knew the man who would take the last shot for the Greeks would be Diamantidis. Diamantidis drove hard to the hoop and was able to draw a foul with 5 seconds left. He nailed the first free throw but missed the second which landed in the hands of Tal Burstein. Burstein attempted to throw the ball down the court but the ball was swatted down by multiple Greek defends and the buzzer sounded. Maccabi’s amazing comeback had come up a little short. The Greeks were led by Dimitris Diamantidis who had 25 points and Maccabi’s leading scorer was David Blu with 14 points.
Now that I have had one night to digest this devastating loss I have to point out some things which I believe ultimately led to Maccabi’s elimination. The Greek shot a red hot 66.7% from the field and the only reason Maccabi were in the position to win this game was that the Greeks committed 16 turnovers a very high number for such a disciplined team. No disrespect to David Blu (he is one of my favorite players in Israel and a great guy) but when he is leading the team in scoring you know there is a problem. Keith Langford and Richard Hendrix were never able to get going offensively. Israeli star Yogev Ohayon also seemed to struggle in the second half. With that being said the most disappointing Maccabi performance had to be Sofo. Last year in the Euroleague this guy was dominant and was considered the best big man in Europe. Plus I thought he would be excited to play in his native Greece. Sofo only managed to play 11 minutes and net 8 points and a very unimpressive two rebounds. Now that the yellow-and-blue are out of the Euroleague they will shift ALL their focus and energy to winning the Israeli playoff championship, something all fellow teams in Israel should fear.