ATHENS – Olympiakos is now a win away from winning the Greek basketball league championship after beating its eternal rival Panathiniakos, 69-64, to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.
It was the first time in 28 games that the Reds had taken a game from the Greens at Panathinaiko’s home venue of the Olympic Sports Hall. Game 4 is on June 1 at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus, Olympiakos’ home court.
Panathiniakos, which took the first game of the series, had an edge in rebounding in game three but made too many errors and costly mistakes, including turnovers, while Olympiakos bore down hard on defense.
The winners were coming off an easy 25-point victory in the second game and used the momentum to take a 21-15 lead after one and 36-28 at the half, and then ran out to a lead of 16 points, 56-40 after three, making it tough for Panathinaikos to claw its way back into the contest.
But the Greens didn’t give up easy, and put on a spurt of 22-8 to come back to a two-point deficit, 64-62 with just a minute left, giving the home fans a lot to cheer about. But some poor decisions and a tight Olympiakos D sealed it at the end for the Reds.
Unlike most of the games between the mortal basketball enemies, which feature rowdyism, the crowd was well-behaved, but Panathinaikos President Dimitris Giannakopoulos wasn’t. He fired off a televised statement blaming the referees for the loss in a profanity-ridden outburst. It was not reported whether he will face a fine or other action from the league.
In the battle for third place in the league, Panionios beat PAOK 75-57 to close the deficit to 2-1 in their series.