Will Rick Pitino dethrone the kings of Real Madrid?

In Round 16 of the Euroleague, we have a lot of interesting matches, but the derby is the battle between Panathinaikos Athens and Real Madrid. Huge teams with huge histories and very good rosters will fight for the win in a full OAKA Olympic Arena. Last season Real Madrid won all the meetings, securing a 3-0 win in the first round of play-offs. Now, only the revenge is in Pitino’s mind, so he will prepare this game very well.

The heavy schedule started to feel in Panathinaikos camp, because between 13.12 and 22.12 they played 5 games, ending with 3 defeats and 2 wins. Those defeats came away, after some long travelling to Israel or Spain, while the victories came in front of their crowd. Now they had a 4-day rest, which helps them a lot, to regain some energy before this big clash. In the weekend they received the visit from Rethymno, in a game with no history. PAO won 96-74, leading in scores from start to finish. Rick Pitino used 12 players in the game, giving the important players more time to rest after that heavy schedule they had before. The main scorers were: Georgios Papagiannis (18 points and 4 rebounds), Jacob Wiley (12 points) and Nick Calathes (11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists). Jimmer Fredette did not play in this game and he’s a game-time decision against Real Madrid.

Everything is perfect on Real’s side because they are in a 10 games win streak and aim to add another one to that run after today’s game. They will miss Sergio Llull, who is an important piece for them, but Campazzo makes a great job as a point guard and Jaycee Caroll but Real no need to worry about those missing players because their roster is long and strong. In their last game, they meet MoraBanc Andorra and smashed them with a 91-60 victory. Pablo Laso gave at least 10 minutes in the game for 12 players which mean that they give a little bit more rest to his starting five before this match against PAO, which is the same strategy as Pitino used in their national league game. The main scorers for Real Madrid were: Trey Thompkins (14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists), Jeffery Taylor (11 points and 3 rebounds) and Walter Tavares (11 points and 12 rebounds).

This will be a tough game with no doubts. Both coaches rest their important players because they want to win this game: Pitino to have his revenge, while Laso to prove that Real Madrid is the stronger team. PAO’s fans will play a huge role in this game and with their help Panathinaikos can get the win, especially if Fredette is fully fit for the game.

Photo: Euroleague

Bogdan Vasile Tirc