Kostas Sloukas strikes again and Panathinaikos is the new champion

2024-05-26T22:10:03+00:00 2024-05-26T23:22:44+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

26/May/24 22:10


A fourth Turkish Airlines EuroLeague championship, first with Panathinaikos Aktor, for Kostas Sloukas

By Antonis Stroggylakis/ info@eurohoops.net

BERLINPanathinaikos Aktor became a seven-time champion in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague on Sunday.

An improved effort in the second half, especially in defense, boosted a win, 95-80, versus Real Madrid in the championship game of the Final Four.

Kostas Sloukas and Kendrick Nunn produced eight points apiece in the fourth quarter, pushing their side to a safe distance. Adding a fourth EuroLeague championship to an extensive list of achievements, the 34-year-old Greek guard ended up with 24 points behind 6/6 field goals, including four makes from beyond the arc. Nunn followed with 21 points.

“Amazing feeling. I can’t describe my feelings. I am so proud of my team, the whole organization of Panathinaikos,” reacted Sloukas before being named Final Four MVP, “We had an incredible game.”

“I just want my team to win. That is all that matters to me. I am speechless. It is amazing what we have done,” added Mathias Lessort after throwing in 17 points and six rebounds.

Jerian Grant piled up 11 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals. “We knew it was one game. We had 20 minutes left in the second half to bring home the seventh star and we did it,” he described improved defense after the break.

The first EuroLeague title for the storied Greek club since 2011 broke a tie with Maccabi Tel Aviv in third place on the all-time list.

On the wrong end of the Final, Dzanan Musa logged a team-high 15 points. Closing the EuroLeague campaign with nine double-digit performance index ratings in a row, Facundo Campazzo put 12 points, four assists, two rebounds, and one steal to his name.

First-ever clash of giants

A combined total of 18 titles at the top-tier level of Europe, the capital of Germany hosted the first collision of the powerhouses in a championship game. Another notable combination, the 103 points between both teams in the first half was a new high across Final history.

With Bosnian swingman Musa up to ten points, the reigning Copa del Rey champions led, 36-25, at the end of the first period. The players coached by Chus Mateo connecting 8/16 three-pointers retained the lead through the fightback of the Greens in the second quarter. A five-point advantage, 54-49, at the break.

“The key of this game is defense,” underlined Lessort after setting himself up for a ninth straight continental showing with a PIR with 11 points in the first half, “We got to tighten up if we want to win.”

Slowing down the tempo, holding the defending champions to seven points and 0/9 three-pointers, Ergin Ataman’s side led 64-61 after 30 minutes. The 58-year-old Turkish head coach displayed trademark fist celebrations in his third EuroLeague championship after more of the same in the fourth quarter.

“It is always amazing emotions,” said Ataman, “We deserved it all season. We had a great season. Tonight, we went down 14 points in the first quarter but came back. It is amazing. I am very happy.”

The advantage peaked at 18 points creating a 32-point swing in favor of Panathinaikos.

“I lost my father one month ago. I am sure that he saw this. He was with me in all the championships with Anadolu Efes,” the winning head coach referred to the death of his father.

Foul trouble for Tavares and Poirier

Major hits from the top of the championship game were youngster Eli Ndiaye scoring the first eight points for Madrid and the all-time leader in blocks, Walter Tavares picking up a second foul after 3:20. With 1:01 left in the first quarter, Panathinaikos superstar Nunn was issued a third foul. “I just had to stay composed,” the 28-year-old American guard commented after the game, “My teammates stepped up big time. We did it together.”

Called for a third foul early in the second half at 7:21 of individual playing time, Tavares stayed on the floor to witness the first Panathinaikos lead. With 6:18 left in the third quarter, Nunn sank a triple for his first points since the first period to complete a comeback from a 14-point deficit. Making matters worse for head coach Mateo, fellow effective rim protector Vincent Poirier had four fouls at the end of the third period and fouled out with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter.

“We just had to be physical. All five players on the court had to be focused. I feel like we did a great job,” Juancho Hernangomez talked about the Greens forcing the bigs of the opponents into foul trouble. His contributions amounted to five points, four rebounds, one steal, and one assist.

Averaging 1.5 blocks per contest over the 2023-24 edition of Europe’s premier club competition shaped incredible contribution from Tavares and Poirier, visibly absent in the last game of the season. Foul trouble extending to Campazzo resulted in a fifth foul for the Argentine floor general with 2:36 on the clock.

“In the third quarter, especially, we went down. We could not understand how to play. We probably shot too much from outside,” Mateo recapped the losing effort, “Their defense was very good, very aggressive.”

Besides Gabriel Deck (right knee) on the injury list, Carlos Alocen was a healthy scratch and Alberto Abalde did not play for Los Blancos. On the opposite end, Dimitris Moraitis was left out of the lineup and Olek Balcerowski was out of the rotation.

Basketball royalty in Germany

Enjoying the Final in person, Scottie Pippen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dennis Schroder, and Vasilije Micic were among the stars out of the court at Uber Arena.

Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez were in attendance as well.

Photo Credit: EuroleagueBasketball.net

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