The Greek derby is always a special game, and Friday night saw a road team take home the victory the first time in more than two years. Olympiacos Piraeus took the lead from the start and never relinquished it against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in a 71-78 win, as Georgios Printezis and Vassilis Spanoulis – two Reds legends who have appeared in more of these clashes than all the other players on both teams combined – took major roles in the victory, both with their play and their leadership.
"Games against Panathinaikos are always important, for them and for us", Printezis said after the contest in which Olympiacos had a slight but very important advantage in rebounding (41-36), and was very efficient in two-point shooting (63.2%), which was especially important because the Reds made just 5 of 27 three-pointers.
Printezis, who hit a game-winner in this same arena against the Greens in November 2016, had another fine game against the same opponent. He led Olympiacos with 17 points, and again showcased a variety of nifty inside and low-post moves, finishing with 6-for-7 from two-point shooting. The rest of the Olympiacos frontcourt followed, with Hassan Martin, Octavius Ellis and Sasha Vezenkov combining to shoot 9-for-12 from close range.
But even though Olympiacos led from start to finish, and had a 14-point third quarter lead, Panathinaikos did come within 4 points with 2 minutes to go. The Reds still prevailed, though, and it turned out that had something to do with words the players heard at halftime in the locker room.
"We went into halftime up 9 points, we were all happy, and Billy Spanoulis came in and chewed us up pretty good," Shaquielle McKissic admitted after the victory. "Letting us know the game is not over. We are a winning team, we can't let them get back into the game, and if we do we still have to finish tough. That motivated us, and I give him 100% credit for that."
Spanoulis had 8 points in the game, but it was his off-court leadership that resonated with his teammates and proved invaluable in their first win of the season.