Olympiakos had a harder time than expected in beating depleted Panathinaikos in Game 1 of the final series of the Basket League on Sunday, but will still be happy with the 76-70 result at the Peace and Friendship Stadium that maintains it as the clear favorite to win back the league title from its eternal rival.
The Reds had a terrible shooting rate in the first half (0/13 three-pointers) obviously due to nerves from the necessity for a home win, allowing the Greens to play their game with a zone defense and a solid attack (with convincing center Loukas Mavrokefalidis and with 4/6 three-pointers), up to the point that the hosts started scoring from distance.
Panathinaikos led for most of the first half, advancing by up to 13 points (23-10) and even when Olympiakos covered the distance to lead by five, the Greens edged ahead once again at half-time (34-33).
The second half was altogether different though. Olympiakos restored order and starting pulling away, first by 12 points (51-39) and then by 14 (72-58), as Panathinaikos was too short-staffed to match its host all the way.
The Greens missed forwards James Gist (has been banned for eight months after failing a drugs test) and injured Esteban Batista and Nikos Pappas.
Costas Sloukas was the top scorer for Olympiakos with 16 points, trailing only the tally of Mavrokefalidis (23 points)
Game 2 will take place on Wednesday at the Olympic Sports Hall.
In the battle for the third spot PAOK leads 1-0 after beating Aris 67-60 at home on Sunday.