On this day nine years ago, Panathinaikos Athens won its sixth EuroLeague title by holding off Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv 70-78 in the championship game at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. It was the third title in five years for Panathinaikos, led on the floor by the great Dimitris Diamantidis and on the bench by the winningest head coach in EuroLeague history, Zeljko Obradovic, who won his eighth title and fifth with the Greens.
Greens’ successful return to Barcelona
Panathinaikos finished the job it started a month earlier when it eliminated the favored defending champion Regal Barcelona 3-1 in their best-of-five EuroLeague playoffs series. Barcelona entered the playoffs with homecourt advantage and poised to defend its crown at the Final Four in its own city, but the Greens had different plans. Barcelona won the series opener at Palau Blaugrana, but Panathinaikos stole Game 2 71-75 win before wrapping up the series by protecting its home floor in Athens in Games 3 and 4 to secure its ticket back to Barcelona for the Final Four, where it disposed of Montepaschi Siena in the semifinals 77-69. Maccabi, in its first season with David Blatt back on the bench, overwhelmed Real Madrid 82-63 in the other semifinal.
Panathinaikos was ahead for the majority of the first half. Maccabi big man Sofoklis Schortsanitis got going in the third quarter and gave his team a 36-35 lead, but Drew Nicholas fueled an 8-19 charge during which Romain Sato nailed 3 three-pointers for the Greens to go up 43-54 after 30 minutes. The lead reached 14 points in the fourth quarter, but Maccabi kept fighting and got within 5 with 80 seconds to go. Dimitris Diamantidis put the game away for Panathinaikos down the stretch. Diamantidis took Final Four MVP honors after starring with 16 points and 9 assists. Mike Batiste led all scorers with 18 points, Nicholas scored 14 and Romain Sato finished with 13. Chuck Eidson collected 17 points and 7 rebounds for Maccabi, David Blu added 14 points, Lior Eliyahu netted 12 and Jeremy Pargo had 12 points and 9 assists.
On this night, Dimitris Diamantidis added to his resume as one of the great point guards in European basketball history by leading Panathinaikos to victory and earning the Final Four MVP award. Diamantidis joined Toni Kukoc (1990, 1991, 1993) and Dejan Bodiroga (2002, 2003) as the only players to earn the honor multiple times; Diamantidis was first chosen Final Four MVP when Panathinaikos won the title in 2007 in Athens. Vassilis Spanoulis has since joined the select company of multiple Final Four MVPs, too.
Diamantidis and Pargo jointly set a new record for assists in a EuroLeague championship game. It is the only time in championship game history - and only the second time in a Final Four game - that two players had at least 9 assists in the same game. Diamantidis and Pargo joined Arriel McDonald as the only players with 9 assists in championship games; McDonald set the mark in Maccabi's win over Panathinaikos in the SuproLeague Final Four in 2000. Diamantidis, who also dished 9 assists in the semifinals, set another record for the most assists in a single Final Four with 18. To this day, Diamantidis is the only player to play in the championship game and amass that many assists during the Final Four weekend.
End of a run
No team in the Final Four era has won as many titles as Panathinaikos under Obradovic. This was the team's fifth title in the span of 12 seasons with the celebrated head coach on the bench; the Greens previously lifted EuroLeague Trophy in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011. This also turned out to be the beginning of the end of that historic run. Obradovic remained on the bench for another season and Panathinaikos reached the 2012 Final Four in Istanbul where it lost in the semifinals against CSKA Moscow. The Greens have not reached the Final Four since then.