Since returning from a two-game injury, Kostas Papanikolaou has been playing his best basketball of the season over the past two weeks, which coincided with Olympiacos Piraeus winning three of its last four games and getting back into the playoffs hunt.
On a night which saw Vassilis Spanoulis take over first place on the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague all-time performance index rating list, it was Papanikolaou who led Olympiacos in scoring with 17 points in a 91-70 victory over AX Armani Exchange Milan.
Papanikolaou, who this week was announced as a EuroLeague All-Decade nominee, scored the first 5 points of the game and ended up eclipsing the 1,500-point career barrier as he moved to 1,510 points for his career. His 17 points were the most he has scored this season and his biggest output in a EuroLeague game since picking up 22 points against KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz last season in Round 17.
That 22-point game against Baskonia finished a stretch of three consecutive games scoring in double figures -- something Papanikolaou did not match until Friday against Milan, after he had posted 10 points at FC Bayern Munich in Round 9 and 12 points at ALBA Berlin in Round 10.
Papanikolaou has been outstanding since his return from a knee injury suffered in the first half against CSKA Moscow in Round 5. He missed two rounds of action and came back in Round 8, helping Olympiacos to an 83-74 victory at home against Zalgiris Kaunas with 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block.
Since getting back to the court, Papanikolaou has averaged 10.2 points over four games while shooting 83.3 percent on two-point shots, 45.4 percent on three-pointers and 85.7 percent from the foul line. He also has picked up 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and just 1.0 turnovers in 23 minutes for an average index rating of 13.8.
Olympiacos's run of three wins in four games -- including back-to-back victories for the first time this season -- has Kestutis Kemzura's team at 5-6 and currently in 10th place in the standings, albeit with two tough road games coming, at Greek rival Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and at Real Madrid.
Getting some more strong performances from Papanikolaou will play a major role in Olympiacos' chances of continuing its strong run of results.