On this day in 2007, Panathinaikos Athens celebrated winning the EuroLeague crown with a thrilling 93-91 win over defending champion CSKA Moscow in front of its fans at OAKA in the Greek capital. CSKA featured the best scoring defense that season and came into the game allowing just 65.9 points per game, while Panathinaikos ranked third in holding opponents to 71.3 points. But a game widely expected to be a defensive struggle turned into a high-scoring thriller that was not decided until the very end.
Road to the finals
Panathinaikos opened the season on an 11-game winning streak to finish the regular season with an 11-3 record and then won its first five Top 16 games to finish atop the group with a 5-1 record. In the playoffs, Panathinaikos ousted Dynamo Moscow 2-0 in their best-of-three series before beating Tau Ceramica 67-53 in the Final Four semifinals. CSKA dominated up until the Final Four, winning 18 consecutive games, a run that started in Round 4 of the regular season and got the team undefeated through the Top 16. CSKA beat Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv 2-1 in the playoffs to reach the Final Four where it defeated Unicaja Malaga 62-50 in the semis.
Panathinaikos spent most of the night in front. The Greens opened their first double-digit lead late in the second quarter and led 46-36 at halftime. CSKA opened the second half with a 1-11 run which helped it take a 50-51 edge. Dejan Tomasevic and Dimitris Diamantidis soon put Panathinaikos back in front and the difference was 69-60 in the early going of the fourth quarter. Trajan Langdon and Theo Papaloukas kept CSKA in range, but Dejan Tomasevic's three-point play made it 83-73. CSKA did make another rally and got within 87-85 with 51.3 seconds to go, but Mike Batiste made a turnaround jumper to ensure that the Greens prevailed.
Diamantidis and Papaloukas shine
Dimitris Diamantidis earned Final Four MVP honors. He scored 15 points in the championship game to lead six Panathinaikos scorers in double figures. Ramunas Siskauskas tallied with 20 points and 5 assists, Dejan Tomasevic scored 16 points, Mike Batiste and Milos Vujanic added 12 each and Nikos Hatzivrettas 10 points in the win. The EuroLeague MVP for that season, Theo Papaloukas set a career-high with 23 points in shooting 9 of 10 from the field and dished 8 assists in a losing effort. Matjaz Smodis finished with 18 points, Trajan Langdon scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and J.R. Holden added 11 points for CSKA.
Records were set by Panathinaikos for most free throws made (38) and attempted (46) in a championship game. The Greens also matched a championship game record for most points scored in the second quarter with 28. Ramunas Siskauskas tied a EuroLeague championship game record with 12 free throws made and set a Final Four record 17 free throws attempted. The win gave Coach Zeljko Obradovic his record sixth EuroLeague title at the time and he has won three more since. No other coach in history has more than four. Panathinaikos team captain Fragiskos Alvertis lifted the fourth of his five EuroLeague crowns.
What happened next
CSKA fell short in its bid to win back-to-back titles on this night in Athens, but went on to win the title the following season when it beat Maccabi in the championship game in Madrid. This was the first title Panathinaikos won in five years and a record fourth in the Final Four era. But that was also the start of a new run, the first of three titles in five years. For one of them, Panathinaikos and CSKA clashed again in the championship game in 2009 in Berlin with the Greens prevailing by 2 points in another thriller.