The giant woke up, Berlin is on his mind: PAO after five years in the playoffs, Maccabi stands on the way to F4

Panathinaikos is in the Euroleague playoffs for the first time in five years. The last time the Athenians played in the final four was 12 years ago, and they won the last title in 2011 with Željko Obradović

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Ataman with Panathinaikos players, Photo: Euroleague.net
Ataman with Panathinaikos players, Photo: Euroleague.net
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

By hiring Ergin Ataman and numerous European stars, the leaders of Panathinaikos sent a clear message last summer that they want to return the club from Athens to the top of European basketball.

Panathinaikos last played in the quarter-finals in the 2018/2019 season, while they last played in the final four in 2012. The glorious days, when the club led by Željko Obradović won this competition five times, are a distant past...

After signing the contract, Ataman also confirmed that the club's ambitions are to return to the top of European basketball this season. The Turkish expert, who won the Euroleague twice with Efes and played in the final three times, made a clear message upon his arrival in Athens:

"Our goal is to reach the final four of the Euroleague. Nothing less than that. The goal of Panathinaikos can't just be a place in the playoffs," Ataman said last summer in an interview with the Turkish "Fanatik".

Ataman is close to realizing this goal - Panathinaikos finished the regular season in the Euroleague in second place with a score of 23-11, so they will play against another European giant - Maccabi in the quarterfinals. The quarter-finals are played on three won matches, and the first is tomorrow (19:30) in Athens.

Ergin Ataman
Ergin Atamanphoto: Euroleague.net

The club was very engaged in the transfer window - Kostas Slukas, Matias Lessor, Juancho Hernangomez, Luka Vildosa, Konstatinos Mitoglu, Ioannis Papapetrou, Aleksander Balcerovski, Jerian Grant, Dimitris Moraitis, Kostas Adetokunbo and Kyle Guy, who is due at the end of 2023, arrived. broke the contract with the Athenians.

Panathinaikos started the season in the Euroleague with a record of 2-4, and then, in the meantime, Kendrick Nunn, a former player of Miami, Los Angeles Lakers and Washington, arrived at the club.

Nan made his debut in the seventh round, in the victory over Alba (99:85) - it was the first of four consecutive triumphs for the "greens" from Athens, and then there was a defeat against Partizan in Belgrade.

In the middle of December, PAO showed what it is capable of - it recorded three victories in three consecutive away games (against Asvel, Monaco and Milan), and then defeated Red Star in Athens. Then the streak was interrupted in the visit to Baskonia, when Miller-McIntyre scored in the last second for the victory of the Spanish team, and after that visit, Ataman's team beat Valencia away, and Efes, Monaco and Partizan at home.

That PAO will be serious at the end of the season was clear in the 27th round, when the former European champion defeated Real Madrid away (97:86) and inflicted the current champion's first defeat in the Euroleague at home this season.

The "Greens" finished the regular part of the season with five wins in a row, and they confirmed their good form recently in the championship, when they defeated Olympiacos (77:71) in the big derby.

What could represent the flaw of this team in the playoffs, write specialized basketball portals, is the lack of experience in the playoffs. Apart from Ataman, who was the European champion twice with Efes, and Slukas, who lifted this trophy twice with Olympiakos and once with Fenerbahce, the other basketball players did not win the Euroleague.

Slukas is the player with the most games in the playoffs (60), and far behind him is Papapetrou with 30 matches. Papapetrou, along with Mitoglu, was the only one in Panathinaikos, when this team last played in the playoffs in 2019.

Players like Lesor, Vildos, Grigonis and Grant played in the playoffs but not in the final four, while Nunn, Hernangomes and Balcerovski never played in the playoffs.

Panathinaikos has gone 12 years without a final four, and 13 without a title. Maccabi stands on their way to Berlin, and the "greens" dream that finally, after the era of Željko Obradović, the title could come to Athens as well.

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