Panathinaikos took the lead in the playoffs series versus Barcelona after winning this evening at the OAKA. Argyris Pedoulakis might at first state that yet another step has been made but he is swift to characterize Thursday’s game extremely significant.
“It was a game similar to the two previous ones. Our goal was to contain Barcelona’s productivity in order to stay alive in the game, to remain competitive. We had expected that Lorbek will finally get game, a player important in creation but also in execution. Also, we have been working on how to react to zone defense during the last few days. Maybe due to the atmosphere in the arena we failed to read into certain situations where we were appealing to zone defense; we opted for a parallel basketball manner for no good reason. Up to a certain extent it was logical, since many of our guys lack Euroleague experience and especially the experience of games of such magnitude. From this point of view, the clash was significant for yet another reason; for the experience we gathered. They got us off plan at certain moments and for us James Gist getting called a second foul while assigned on Saras was a great deal. Also as we were facing issues in our rotation, Barcelona got game. In the end, luck is also needed but what we had aspired toward was to stay close in the game. Barcelona is an experienced, exceptional team which had been running a 22-to-2 winning streak throughout the season. We managed to upset their mentality through defense, to mess up their game for extended periods of time and stay in the game. We progressed further but now we must make an even tougher step on Thursday. And that is why we must all remain grounded, focused as ever, spot our mistakes and improve because that is the only way to nail our target”.
When asked about the key element to strike the difference in the game, Pedoulakis stated: “I believe that to a great extent we have destroyed their low post game. But there are still some areas in the game which remained to be improved. We must focus on the pace and the rebounds. I believe that it is natural for a player not to be able to read into a situation rapidly. But on the other hand, the will is great and the disposition is such on behalf of everyone on the team. You saw big man Sofo dive for the ball and in respective moments the moves other guys pulled. For a fifth game to become a one-point one, the big men are the ones to step up and deal with matters to seal the competitive deal… It happened with Zalgiris, Bamberg, Malaga and now with Barcelona. But of course I must also mention Dimitris, who is doing a heck of a job, is reading into the plays in no time and is there to prevent them from getting the best of him…”
The call in the last play of the game which led to (another) Diamantidis three, orders to be handed out easier praise to… instant replay time, was also something Pedoulakis commented on: “Because Mike Bramos, who was supreme for first half, was a tad stressed out in the second part of the encounter maybe due to pressure and lack of experience, we steered our intents to Dimitris. We drew a double pick, in order for him to attempt a fast three, so as to get one last offense in the end. Primarily because this way he would get to an uncontested shot and secondarily because we could get an opportunity to appeal one last time in the game at the end, we could get one last chance. We got an opening for the shot, it was a lucky play, but we managed to stand our ground and do our thing”.
As far as James Gist’s performance, despite his injury, the Panathinaikos coach stated: “He has a tremendous development. He is mighty important in all we are planning towards and especially, as we have already said before, when defending Saras. And that is why his second personal foul early in the game set us off our game plan to a certain extent. He wants to improve, he helped us out a great deal in the end of the game with his energy as he was somewhat more rested than the others, since due to his injury he had sat out for 3 days”.
It was impossible for Pedoulakis not to comment on the fans: “The image was mesmerizing. No other team throughout Europe can gather such a crowd, so fast and with such a pulse from minute one. On certain occasions the fans enthusiasm gets the best of us in offense, exactly because we have players not use to playing in front of so many people. And we reach the point of performing more instinctively than cerebrally. You can’t blame them however, it is logical…”
Barcelona Head Coach, Xavier Pascual, congratulated Panathinaikos for prevailing only to add: “We had our chance after tip-off but missed many shots. When we did manage to improve in defense we got back in the game. Pressure was handed down to Panathinaikos and it became a whole different ball game. We got to a more advantageous situation, fought at the game down the stretch, but were unlucky. We turned the ball over, Panathinaikos got a maybe lucky three, we missed a pair of shots from the line, got to yet another winning bucket but ultimately failed. In the last minute of the game we committed mistakes in the very details which are the most important ones. The issue we are facing in Small Forward position with Pete Mickeal’s absence is obvious. We knew that with the injury report we had we would be facing issues and so it is. We will not give up the fight however. I am not in my players’ minds at the moment to be able to tell you if they were irritated in any way, but I can state that we had confidence prior to the matchup, but let us not forget that a great deal of pressure also exists”.