Turkish Airlines Euroleague
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Pre-draw profile: Panathinaikos
December 27, 2011
The reigning Turkish Airlines Euroleague champion, Panathinaikos Athens, followed its game plan to perfection in the regular season and enters the Top 16 ready for the next challenges. Despite injuries and integrating a handful of new faces into the lineup, the Greens won 7 of 10 games to place second in competitive Group B. But as has become the norm for clubs coached by the legendary Zeljko Obradovic, the expectations are to see Panathinaikos only get better from stage to stage as it looks to do the one thing the storied Greek side has yet to accomplish – win back-to-back Euroleague titles! Panathinaikos has long been a superpower in Greek sports and first took charge of the local basketball leagues with 12 domestic titles in a 17-year stretch between 1967 and 1984. Despite a dry period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Panathinaikos bounced back to become a top team in European basketball. In 1996, legends Panagiotis Giannakis, Dominique Wilkins and Fragiskos Alvertis came together and secured the first Euroleague title by a Greek team. In 2000 Panathinaikos lifted its second Euroleague trophy in Thessaloniki with a win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Greens won it all again in 2002, upsetting Virtus in Bologna. At home in Greece, its trophy collecting continued with a new string of domestic crowns. Since 1998, the Greens have won 13 Greek League titles out of a possible 14 to give the club an unprecedented total of 32. Panathinaikos went back to the Euroleague Final Four in Moscow 2005, but eventual champ Maccabi stood on its way to the title. The team was one win away from reaching the 2006 Final Four, but it all clicked in the 2006-07 campaign, which would prove to be one for the history books as Panathinaikos stormed into Final Four, held at the club's home court in Athens, and knocked off defending champ CSKA Moscow 93-91 in an instant classic. Two years later the Greens put their name on the title again in Berlin with Vassilis Spanoulis earning Final Four MVP honors in one of the most exciting finals in basketball history. Last season Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP Dimitris Diamantidis shined as the Greens turned away defending champ Regal FC Barcelona in the playoffs, then downed Maccabi Electra in Barcelona in the Euroleague title game and finally kept its streak of Greek League championships alive – now nine in a row – by seeing off archrival Olympiacos in the finals. Already one of the modern heavyweights of basketball with five crowns since the turn of the century and the third-most Final Four appearances (10) in competition history, all signs point to Panathinaikos remaining a perennial challenger for years to come. And that means seeing the Greens fighting for a ticket to Istanbul and a shot at Euroleague glory again this season.
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