On this day two years ago, Panathinaikos Athens and Real Madrid squared off in the opener of their best-of-five playoff series. When all was said and done, Nick Calathes had led the Greens to a whopping 95-67 win that made caused many to think that Los Blancos would not have a say in the series, let alone become EuroLeague champions as they eventually did a month later.
The end of the regular season was as close as they come and Panathinaikos had to win the last game by a single point in Milan to get the homecourt advantage. The Greens ended up fourth and Real finished fifth after a blowout win against Brose Bamberg. Their playoff series would start with two games at OAKA and then move to Madrid. Los Blancos had been without superstar Sergio Llull the whole season due to an ACL injury suffered the previous summer while practicing with the Spanish national team and he was on the brink of recovery just in time for the playoffs.
About the game
Being an opening game between the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams, in theory, it was to be the closest of the series. However, when Nick Calathes fed his fourth assist to Mike James, who scored his seventh point for a 20-0 lead, many could not believe what was going on. Of course, Real reacted, but the headstart the Greens took was too big for the visitors to handle and by the start of the fourth quarter Panathinaikos led by 79-44. Real was stuck on 3-of-19 three-point shooting and collected only 26 rebounds to Panathinaikos's 38. The Greens made 12 of 22 threes for a total performance index rating of 112 against Real's 60.
Calathes sets new playoffs record
Being it that in the fifth minute, Panathinaikos guard Nick Calathes had already dished 4 assists, it made total sense that he would set a new playoff record for assists when the dust settled. He finished the first quarter with five decisive passes and went on to dish 16 to set the new mark, leaving behind the 15 assists delivered by Thomas Heurtel in 2015, also against Real Madrid. In fact, the top three assists marks in the playoffs have all been against Real Madrid, the third being in 2009 when Theo Papaloukas dished 13 assists against Los Blancos.
What would happen next
As in an M. Night Shyamalan movie, the big plot twist arrived in Game 2. Real Madrid won that game 82-89 and when the series moved to Madrid, Los Blancos took both games inspired by the return of Sergio Llull, who scored 8 points in Game 3 after months away from the courts. Real would end up winning the title in the Final Four in Belgrade. But the aftermath of that opening game didn't end there; since then these teams have faced each other 10 times and Real has won them all, including three more playoff contests in the 2018-19 season.