A touch of predictability in how Panathinaikos have performed on the road made it far too easy a decision to turn to another game on Thursday for BiE editor Emmet Ryan. Rick Pitino needs to find something on the floor to stop them sliding out of contention, and fast
Thursday’s Euroleague slate was, simply, a feast of options. Everyone could watch the early game but tough calls had to be made over how to prioritise what came next. Maccabi vs Panathinaikos was the narrow call for me, initially, over Real Madrid hosting Efes and Olimpia Milano taking on Zalgiris. Seriously, this was a great slate.
Early on in the game in Tel Aviv, PAO looked great but a quick glance down at the scoreboard and they weren’t doing an awful lot with it. For all the conniptions they were giving Ioannis Sfairopoulos in timeouts, they weren’t doing any real damage. By half-time, Maccabi were up by 5 and that was when the decision was made.
I used to have a side gig making premier league predictions for every match and I was pretty good at it. While football is a low scoring game, it’s got certain patterns. I was eventually replaced, I kid you not, by former Ireland international Tony Cascarino. There are worse people to lose jobs to.
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Basketball tends to have far less predictability around it. There are favourites, a game has a flow, but inevitability rarely sets in early outside of total blow outs or if LeBron is playing the Raptors in the postseason.
Yet, down only by 5, PAO had already shown their hand by half-time. Their awful performances on the road made it simply impossible to believe in them finding a way out of a…checks…two possession hole. Granted there were massive qualifiers here, Maccabi are on a roll and even when they’re not Tel Aviv is a tough place to win plus the two games on at the same time were both high potential match-ups.
But I still felt weird thinking ‘this is done’ with such a tiny margin. The nearest I can recall is in hurling, a game which is lower scoring but prone to wilder swings, when my guys Dublin trailed by the minimum to Kilkenny at half-time of a first round game in 1998. We’d hung with them for half the game but that was also the absolute best those guys were going to deliver. The other guys, we knew they had more in the tank. It ended in a slaughter.
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PAO aren’t getting slaughtered but they are getting in far too many predictable scenarios. It’s not their duty to make me want to keep watching but if a neutral observer is thinking it imagine what it’s doing to Panathinaikos fans when they see this pattern.
In Rick Pitino, for all the questions, they’ve got a coach who is built to break cycles. Well this is the big one he needs to take down. Force a way back, show a way to win on the road and it goes better if you can do it without front-running. One good ugly road win, and PAO are back in contention. Finding it is the hard part.
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