Rudy Fernández, with 23 points, 4 rebounds and an overall appraisal of 25, and Nikola Mirotic, 18 points, 8 rebounds and an overall appraisal of 22, were decisive in the victory against Panathinaikos
They started quickly and with great intensity. But in a matter of minutes, the script was to throw up a great deal of suffering, which Laso’s men would have to overcome to take their first victory of the Euro League. Rudy, who was in spectacular form during the whole game, threatened and played a tremendous first few minutes, but Diamantidis, aware that he had to control the pace of the game, accompanied by an outstanding Schortsanitis and a very strong Bramos, took control of the game. Real Madrid summoned up the courage in the second part and they came out to play and, with the hand of Draper and his quick play, the come back was underway. In the end, 85-78, with an outstanding performance from two who have been called upon to take centre stage this year: Rudy and Mirotic, with 23 and 18 points respectively.
Without warning, without the need for a warm-up or a connection. Real Madrid came out to destroy and Rudy was the intended executioner in the opening stages of play. A slam dunk and two triples in two minutes, recording a score of 8-0, left nobody in doubt of the intentions of the Balearic who, in a display of very high intensity, was causing problems. Pedoulakis, subdued during the opening of the Whites, was forced to make a change and he called on one of his power players: Schortsanitis, who took responsibility for scoring the first points of his team. With him and Diamantidis, Panathinaikos attempted to turn the tables on the score line which they managed to do. In a display of bravery, and taking advantage of Real Madrid’s lack of potency in attack, the Greeks, with “Big Sofo” inside and Diamantidis outside, recorded a score of 0-12 which practically turned the score board on its head.
With a score 22-20 in the first quarter, Laso’s Madrid had to play in the same way as they started the game, with speed and a quick counterattack, but Schortsanitis, who could not be stopped, was causing endless damage. The Greek pivot, who was joined on the list of scorers by Panko and Tstartsaris, became the leading scorer. And under the guidance of Diamantidis, who imposed anything but a comfortable rhythm, they managed to take a 9-point advantage with them into the break (35-44).
The break awakened the Whites from their slumber. With the extremely active performance of Draper, running the court, making blocks and getting through tremendous defensive work, the Whites were able to get themselves back into the game. A score of 13-2 in the first few minutes forced a time out from the Greek bench, which was observing how its team was starting to lose control. Another good piece of news, besides the fact that Laso’s men were again dominating the tempo of the game and beginning to feel at ease, was the appearance of the Nikola Mirotic who had been anonymous up to that point. The Spanish-Montenegrin put together several pieces of play consecutively as he improved his game and he scored 12 points. However, Bramos and Schortsanitis were still hurting Madrid and with just 10 minutes left to play, the match was still to be decided as both teams had the same amount of points.
With maximum tension and the struggle for the first win, the Whites brought all their fire power onto the court. Things didn’t start well, as Panathinaikos, with a triple from Bramos went four points ahead. But Real Madrid took things seriously and put on a display of their defensive intensity. After the fourth foul by Schorstanitis, which took him directly to the bench, the Whites started to run and pick up points. First it was Slaughter, and then Llull; Carroll and Mirotic followed, and then Carroll again after an amazing steal from Rudy… Finally, and in spite of the many obstacles created by the Greeks, the victory belonged to Real Madrid to kick off this European competition. It was a hard-fought victory which was made possible by a magnificent second half display by Laso’s team.