By Antonis Stroggilakis/ email@example.com
On his career-night, Tyrese Rice couldn’t be denied. The former EuroLeague champion set a new personal scoring record of 41 points to lead Panathinaikos to the 99-93 overtime win over Olympiacos in a game for the ages.
In what ended up being one of the most fascinating battles in the history of the Greek derbies, the Greens defended their home court while Olympiacos came quite close to the away win in regulation.
With the score tied at 86 after a hook shot by Panathinaikos‘ big George Papagiannis, Olympiacos had the ball and three seconds to win it. However, Nick Calathes stole the ball, and he even had time to try a long three. He didn’t make it, but Panathinaikos prevailed in overtime.
Rice made eight threes, his previous career-best was just 26 points, and his performance – the best scoring performance in a game between the Greek “Eternal Rivals” during the last 30 years – was enough for Panathinaikos.
“He was amazing, and we couldn’t stop him, and maybe I didn’t do my job as a coach properly to find the way to stop him,” said Olympiacos coach Kestutis Kemzura.
Nick Calathes added 14 points, ten rebounds, and six assists for the winning side.
“All the credit goes to Olympiacos for a great rivalry game, we played well, but they played tremendously, so that’s why it was such a great game for everyone,” said coach Rick Pitino after the final buzzer.
Panathinaikos closed the first half with a 46-39 lead. However, Olympiacos turned things around in the second half. In the extra time, Rice with four straight points gave Panathinaikos a crucial 96-91 advantage.
Vassilis Spanoulis with 18 points and Brandon Paul with 17 points were the head of the spear for Olympiacos and also missed crucial plays down the stretch in overtime. Nikola Milutinov got a double-double (14 p. 10 r), but the Reds couldn’t close the night the right way.
“Calathes made gigantic defensive plays.”
Coach Pitino also wanted to give credit where is due to his players, and he explained why: “You pick up the stat sheet, and a typical fan will say, ‘Boy, Nick Calathes was 0-for-9 on three-pointers.’ But he made two gigantic defensive plays that helped us win the game. Tyrese Rice was awesome, but they made tough three-point shots”.
Tyrese Rice, who kept the game ball added: “I gotta take [the game ball] home, it is a milestone game. But more important is that we won. We just fought to the end. Big rivalry games are always like that; you can never get too high. We got up 10, 11 points, and they came right back. We stayed resilient, we made shots, and we made plays in the end.”
“We had a better shooting percentage, we dished more assists, but our free throws killed us,” said Kemzura as Olympiacos made 20/31 attempts from the charity line.
Panathinaikos finished the game with just five turnovers and almost lost it, so that tells everything you need to know about the general level of play. The winners have a solid 8-4 record while Olympiacos dropped to 5-7.