Olimpia won its last two EuroLeague games, both at home against Baskonia and Red Star, before taking a stop due to the postponement of the Istanbul game against Fenerbahce. The opponent, Panathinaikos, one of the the European basketball powerhouses over the last twenty years, is experiencing a complicated season itself: they have the same number of wins as Olimpia, eight, one more game played, and a road record of 2-10 (wins in Belgrade-Red Star and Kaunas); in the Greek league they are second behind Olympiacos with 13 wins and two losses; in the Greek Cup they lost the semi-final again against Olympiacos. During the last few days, they also replaced Coach Dejan Radonjic with Christos Serelis, formerly at Lavrio. Compared to the Athens game, which Panathinaikos won after an overtime, Panathinaikos recovered Marius Grigonis and added the shooter, Matt Thomas. Unfortunately, Olimpia is experiencing another game in an emergency situation: with Kevin Pangos and Shavon Shields not yet ready to return, the team will also be without Devon Hall, who had played all the games up to now and averaged more than 30 minutes per game. On top of it, Pippo Ricci and Paul Biligha won’t be available because of National Team’s duty.
THE REFEREES – Dani Hierrezuelo (Spain), Milan Nedovic (Serbia), Uros Nikolic (Slovenia).
COACH ETTORE MESSINA – “We face a team that, just like us, is going through a complicated season, in which they had to change a lot and lost a lot of close calls. In Athens, we had controlled the game for a long time, so we have to start over from those first 35 minutes, play an intense game, pay close attention primarily to Dwayne Bacon’s offensive talent, Matt Thomas’ shooting, the athletic power of their big men, starting with Derrick Williams. We are coming off a bad outing in the Italian Cup and we also lost Devon Hall, who has always given us a lot in terms of defense and versatility, but whover is going to go out there we feel the responsibility of playing a high level game.”
PANATHINAIKOS NOTES – The starting point guard usually is the EuroLeague veteran Nate Wolters, five seasons with four different teams, who is averaging 8.8 points and dishing out 3.3 assists per game as well as having 39.5 percent on three-point shooting. The other point guard is a player suitable for a change of pace, Paris Lee, averaging 11.0 points and 3.5 assists, exceeding 26 minutes per game. Dwayne Bacon, who was signed five games into the season, is one of the best scorers in the competition, posting 18.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in over 32 minutes on the court. Shooter Matt Thomas was recently added and scored 13 points in his first game. Injuries made Marius Grigonis’ season complicated (7.1 points per game, 38.8 percent from three). Mateusz Ponitka (8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game) plays both as a small forward and as a power forward, he stays on the court over 25 minutes per game but usually coming off the bench. The starting power forward is always Derrick Williams, another five-year veteran in the EuroLeague with five different teams. So far, he is averaging 13.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, well over 31 minutes of playing time. At the center position, Georgios Papagiannis averages 5.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game; Arturas Gudaitis adds 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds (1.9 are offensive rebounds), shooting 63.3 percent on two. However, Gudaitis just like Lefteris Bochoridis (injuries) and Panagiotis Kalaitzakis (National Team’s duty) won’t be available.
HISTORY VS. PANATHINAIKOS – Olimpia has faced Panathinaikos 25 times during its history. The record overall is 9-16 (8-15 considering only the EuroLeague era). In Athens, Olimpia has prevailed four times: during the 2011/12 Top 16, 67-58; during the 2018/19 season, 86-83 with 20 points and eight rebounds by Arturas Gudaitis; in 2019/20, 79-78 with Vlado Micov scoring 18 points and Luis Scola added 17; last season 76-75 with 13 points and 10 rebounds from Kyle Hines, who decided the game from the line in the end. In Milan, the record is 5-7. In Athens, it is 9-4 in Panathinaikos’ favor, including the 90-77 overtime win conquered earlier this season. During the 1997/98 season the two teams met in the Europe Cup semifinal. Panathinaikos won the first game 77-58, but Olimpia, coached by Franco Casalini, came back in the second game with a memorable 86-61 that clinched the berth for the championship game.
PANATHINAIKOS CONNECTION – Arturas Gudaitis has played three seasons in Milan, and he helped the team win the Italian league championship in 2018 and two Supercups. He appeared in 69 EuroLeague games with 701 points and 416 rebounds. Deshaun Thomas played for Panathinaikos two seasons, from 2018 to 2020, with 60 EuroLeague games, 724 points and 244 rebounds. Billy Baron and Kevin Pangos both played along Mateusz Ponitka in St. Petersburg.
KYLE HINES NOTES – Kyle Hines is one more blocked shot away from reaching 300 for his career, the third player ever to cross that milestone. He has also crossed the 700-point scored with Olimpia barrier. Since he came to Milan, he has taken part of 99 games out of 99. The Istanbul game will be his 100th. He is the fourth player ever to do so for Olimpia after Kaleb Tarczewski, Nicolò Melli and Vlado Micov. Hines has made more than 300 two-point field goals for Olimpia and now is two two-pointers away from Kaleb Tarczewski all-time first place (304).
NICOLO’ MELLI NOTES – Nicolò Melli is 23 defensive rebounds shy of 1.000 over his career. He can be the sixth player all-time to reach the milestone. Melli is also the Olimpia’s second-best rebounder ever with 606, 20 rebounds shy of Kaleb Tarczewski’s 626.
GAME NOTES – Olimpia is 7-3 when Billy Baron has scored in double digit. Only in Munich, Olimpia managed to win despite Baron’s nine points outing. Over the last four games, Tim Luwawu-Cabarrot is averaging 15.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, on top of being 16-for-22 on twos.