Panathinaikos, Maccabi meet on road to Istanbul
Panathinaikos will have to stop Maccabi Electra’s Sofoklis Schortsanitis in the playoff match-up between the two teams. The Greek center is likely to face Pana forward Kostas Tsartaris too often during the playoffs.Panathinaikos and Maccabi Electra will renew one of the European basketball’s greatest rivalries as they meet in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague playoffs tonight.
The two teams will start their best-of-five playoff series as Barcelona will take on Unics Kazan in the second match-up tonight. The winners of the four playoff ties will advance to the Final Four in Istanbul in May.
The highlight of the week will be the tie between defending champions Panathinaikos and Maccabi.
The two teams, who have last met for the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague crown at the Final Four in Barcelona, have combined for eight continental titles in the last 12 seasons and during that span clashed in five Final Fours and three times in the title game.
Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic acknowledged the tie will be of great importance.
“It’s the playoffs, the games that can lead us all the way to the Final Four,” Obradovic was quoted as saying on the official Euroleague website.
The first two games will be played at OAKA before the series move to Israel and the deciding fifth game will be played in Greece – if needed. However, Obradovic does not believe the home-court advantage will be decisive. “We respect Maccabi very much. I believe that we must understand that playing in OAKA is not an advantage for us. It’s nothing if we don’t concentrate.”
Time to change
“We have to play how we normally play away this year, because till now we haven’t played well in OAKA. It’s time to change this. There is no favorite in this matchup between us and Maccabi Electra.”
Forward Romain Sato added they have utmost respect for Maccabi.
“We are facing Maccabi Electra, a good team which has an extra motivation, because of last year’s final,” Sato said. “Our opponent is a good team, with great tradition and they have our respect. We have to be focused in order to get the result we want. Defense is the key of the game and also the focus in offense.”
Elsewhere, Barcelona Regal will test its title credentials against Unics Kazan. Unics Kazan guard Zakhar Pashutin is aware that it would be a tough game for the Russians, who performed well above expectations.
“We have played our opponents twice this season, therefore we know each other pretty well,” Pashutin said. “In my opinion, FC Barcelona Regal is one of the main contenders for the title this year. They have a well-balanced roster, they know how to play as a team. We expect a tough game in Barcelona. Our opponents are pretty strong and one needs to be focused and concentrated all 40 minutes long to compete well against them. We need to avoid mistakes, because Barcelona won’t hesitate to punish them immediately.”