Before the game, all the specialists listed Panathinaikos as the favourite against Fenerbahce. It could be, I mean PAO is a great home team, with a lot of experienced players and on the other side, Fenerbahce had some injuries and some others who just recovered from injuries.
After the game started even if it looked tied till the 4thquarter when Fenerbahce destroyed completely PAO, it was clear that the Turkish side will win without a doubt the game. Because you simply cannot defend Jan Vesely and Joffrey Lauvergne with James Gist, Deshaun Thomas and Ian Vougioukas. You need real centers to face real centers.
Giant center Giorgios Papagiannis (2,20 m) who played in the NBA was on the bench (maybe injured), another great defender of the rim, Stephane Lasme was on the same bench and Ioannis Papapetrou was officially injured. What is interesting is that neither the Greek club nor the media listed the first two centers as injured. Why was such a big secret? PAO hoped to win the game surprising Fenerbahce? Childish for a big club!
Both teams used a zone defense, who worked just for Fenerbahce who forced PAO to a very poor percentage from the arc 7 from 28 (25%). And even you didn’t realize this bad percentage is the fruit of the absence of the real centers for Panathinaikos. And I will explain a bit: if the zone defense doesn’t have to concentrate to defend too much in the paint (because the other team’s centers are not dangerous), it will be easier to defend the 3 point line (which normally is the opportunity for the other team). Zone defense create space (if you move quickly the ball) for relatively open 3 point shots. But if you have no real centers, the opponent defense can focus to defend just the shots from the arc, advancing to the shooter position and making very difficult that supposed open shot.
The other problem was that the zone defense with which PAO responded didn’t work at all, exactly because the Fenerbahce centers were too strong and created so big advantage in the paint. This imbalance created another greater advantage for the visitors from the 3 point line, where Fenerbahce looked excellent: 13/21 (61,9%)!
Furthermore: the zone defense helped Fenerbahce to defend collectively Keith Langford, Nick Calathes, Deshaun Thomas and other PAO’sshooters who love to play one on one.
In conclusion, PAO had any chance to beat Fenerbahce. Without the missing centers, I am not sure that they can beat any serious Euroleague team.
Graţian Cormoş, email@example.com