On March 3, 2020, a big derby waited for Greek basketball lovers. I’m sure that Euroleague watchers also wondered what was going to happen between these two basketball ecoles.

Maybe some of you know that Shaq McKissic had a financial problem with his former team Besiktas. So both sides terminated the agreement and McKissic has found his way to Olympiacos. This match was also a new stage for him in Euroleague.

For both sides, there were players disabled: Vassilis Spanoulis, Charalampopopulos and Milutinov were the disabled players on Olympiacos side and especially Spanoulis and Milutinov’s absence was an important problem for the team. On Panathinaikos side, Nikos Pappas was absent with the decision of team head coach Rick Pitino.

Shaq McKissic was in starting five as #77 and this is important because he is a new player for Olympiacos and for new players, to accommodate yourself to a new team has a huge impact on team chemistry and communication between players.

The first attack came from Panathinaikos after the jump ball but with a bad pass of Georgios Papagiannis, the ball was about to return to the backcourt but Nick Calathes took the ball quickly. Kostas Papanikolaou made his and Olympiacos’ first points by double play with Georgios Printezis. On the other side, Panathinaikos’ first points came from Ioannis Papapetrou.

McKissic was on fire and without a doubt, he passed the defence of Panathinaikos and finished the attack with a dunk. It was like that he wanted to prove his play and his value to his former team Besiktas and other Euroleague teams.

Wade Baldwin IV made an alley-oop with Octavius Ellis and showed off how to read the game and find the player. That made the series 12-4 on behalf of Olympiacos in first quarter. Nick Calathes tried to play one-to-one sometimes and he made the path to the basket. For the other times he played double with centers and Panathinaikos made the series 8-0 making the score 12-12. Baldwin IV tried to match Nick Calathes’ play and went to the basket himself but he made only 2 points in this match. Tyrese Rice used the last ball for first quarter with a hook shot after penetrating into restricted area and he made the score 18-20.

Rice started the second quarter by playing double with Mitoglu and also showed that he was ready to get up Panathinaikos. Fredette also showed his play intelligence and even he couldn’t succeed in 3 points shot, he made the rival take the foul by purpose and got 3 free throws, turning 2 of them into point. Vezenkov also made perfect 3 points shot and stole ball in this quarter. Rice made a double play with Mitoglu again and Ellis tried to block but there was a goaltending and that violation gave Panathinaikos 2 points. When the clock showed 7:56, there were two guards on Panathinaikos side at the same time, Rice and Calathes. Olympiacos made good defence and Rice made a charging. Brandon Paul was also extra for Olympiacos, made penetration and got 2 points. At 5th minute, Olympiacos had 7-0 series. But Mitoglu had Panathinaikos’ back with offensive rebounds and finishing some of them with 2 points. McKissic made 2 of Olympiacos’ 7 turnovers. Taylor Rochestie contributed to Olympiacos with his 3 points shots. Olympiacos made 8-2 series.

In 3rd quarter, Papapetrou made first point from free throws. Papagiannis blocked Printezis very strongly, catching the ball in the air. For next attack, a mismatch occurred and when McKissic defended DeShaun Thomas, he made an understandable foul. McKissic’s hand was still hot and continued to penetrate and make points. Thomas was ineffective in restricted area and couldn’t make points. Calathes’ forcing shots turned into points and gave Olympiacos hard times without Spanoulis. Ellis was very good at tracking the ball and even he couldn’t make points at first, he succeeded after offensive rebound. Mitoglu took an offensive foul very quickly. McKissic stole the ball from Calathes and finished the fast break with a dunk. The head coach of Panathinaikos, Rick Pitino had taken a technical foul because of his objection before the official bumped into him. Brandon Paul saw Ellis in the restricted area and passed the ball quickly making him get 2 points for the team. Another mismatch occurred and Ellis fouled when he defended Calathes. In another attack of Panathinaikos, there was a miscommunication between Calathes and Mitoglu that led to a turnover. Printezis also was effective in restricted area.

In 4th quarter, there was a strict defence from Olympiacos. Calathes found Papagiannis in restricted area twice with 4th and 5th assist, they got the points. Rice made a foul actually when Vezenkov made points but the officials didn’t see that position. For next attack, Rice made 2 points himself with penetration. Papanikolaou made a great 3 points shot, getting up Olympiacos. Calathes made his team’s first 3 points shot successfully but 1/18 rate was really terrible for Panathinaikos. McKissic had another dunk with penetration himself. At the end, the score came to 81-78 and Olympiacos got the win.

To me, defence is always important in basketball games and you can’t get the win with only offence. You need both of them for a balanced game and a win. Panathinaikos was outstanding, especially when it comes to steals. Both sides were good about taking rebounds but this time Olympiacos was outstanding at offensive rebounds which means that they track the ball and fight for a second chance. If we adress the 3 points, both sides were bad but Panathinaikos has catched a series for missing 3 shots and this situation was effective on losing the match. I’m not sure what Panathinaikos would do if Spanoulis and Milutinov was able to play on the court. DeShaun Thomas couldn’t show himself very effectively but when it comes to McKissic, he wanted this match more than any player on the court in my opinion and showed off who he is, when playing basketball is the issue. Vezenkov was effective on the court as a mission man. Calathes and Rice couldn’t save the team even they played very well, alone or with double play. Printezis tried to deputise for Milutinov and he did it in some measure. But at the end, Panathinaikos has to find a solution for 5% 3 points or it can set them back for the other matches and play-off wars.