NBA

Euroleague betting: Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos will be worth watching for the spectacle alone

January 2, 2019January 6th, 2022

THE Athens derby is always one of the more ferocious experiences in all of European sport.

Riot police, attack dogs, mesh nets to intercept missiles and flares. When Panathinaikos meets Olympiacos in football, at least there is the possibility of rain to dampen the fervour. Indoors, in basketball, there is a roof to contain the high-volume din.

And rarely will a Euroleague clash between the two Greek giants command such global interest. Not for the rivalry on the floor, Red versus Green, but for those on the sidelines, with David Blatt pitting his wits against Rick Pitino in a duel between two of the USA’s hoops uber-brains.

Pitino’s arrival has, thus far, lived up to its billing with an unexpected Euroleague win over CSKA Moscow on his debut and then a domestic league triumph over Promitheas to follow. At 66, the former NCAA title winner has drilled defence and passing in double quick time since his arrival and in beating CSKA, his motivation skills were front and centre.

He told his players: “I want one thing from you. I want you to play like you're on a one-day contract. You've got one day to perform. And at the end of the night, I want you to look in the mirror, and you decide if you get your contract renewed.” In overwhelming CSKA – who have finally been displaced as championship favourites by Fenerbahce – everyone earned a new deal.

Blatt is the proven European maestro, rehabilitated – not that it was required – from his abortive NBA stint. Yet although Olympiakos are two wins and six places above their neighbours in the standings, there is arguably more pressure on the hosts on Friday night.

Fourth-favourites at 21.00 for the crown, the Reds come off an inexplicable 79-75 reverse at bottom side Darussafaka – Blatt’s old team – and will have to beware the trait that they give up over six more points on their own floor (80.4) than they do on the road, even if they score more nine extra (85.6) at the Peace and Friendship Stadium.

This will be the eleventh time these sides have met each other in the Euroleague this century. They are 5-5 after Panathinaikos won 93-80 in Round 6 of the current regular season, with Lukas Lekavicius led the winners with 17 points and Nick Calathes adding 14 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Calathes – the only Pana player to start every game this term – leads the league in assists with 8.1 per game and is third in steals with 1.7 per game.

It will be another test of Pitino’s ability to squeeze additional effort out of his side, and of Blatt’s capacity to regroup. One worth watching for the spectacle alone with the hosts available on a handicap of -4.5 at 1.91.

Best bet: Go over 161.5 total points in Olympiacos – Panathinaikos

Buducnost, sitting second from bottom in the Euroleague table, hired Jasmin Repesa as their new head coach last weekend after dismissing Aleksandar Dzikic. The Croatian takes over in Podgorica with his side mired with a 3-12 record while also languishing in fourth place in the Adriatic League.

Leading Fortitudo Bologna to the Euroleague final in 2004, his next debut comes at one of his former clubs, Olimpia Milan, on Thursday. And although Buducnost are 5.10 to give Repesa a victorious bow, the acquisition of Norris Cole – combined with Milan’s porous defence – gives them a shot at an upset.