Panathinaikos endured a disjointed start to the season, with Coach Argyris Pedoulakis departing after just one game and former Barcelona boss Xavi Pascual recruited as his replacement.
With several new players also being integrated alongside their new coach, it was no surprise when the Greens struggled for consistency in the early weeks of the campaign and had a 5-5 record a third of the way into the season, including narrow defeats against CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and local rival Olympiacos Piraeus.
But it didn’t take long for Pascual’s methods to start bearing fruit, and Panathinaikos showed its potential with a four-game winning streak highlighted by a convincing 81-70 home victory over Fenerbahce and former coach Zeljko Obradovic in Round 12.
Panathinaikos was still struggling to find form on the road, though, and a run of just two wins in six games – including losses at Olympiacos, Fenerbahce Istanbul and Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade – meant a playoff berth was by no means guaranteed as the regular season headed into its final 10 games.
Pascual’s men found their offensive rhythm and scored 80-plus points to gain important victories over Galatasaray Odeabank Istanbul, Brose Bamberg and Unics Kazan, but were still vulnerable on the road and suffered losses at Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul and Zalgiris Kaunas.
With five games to play, the Greens needed a mighty effort to make a challenge for home-court advantage, and that’s exactly what they delivered by winning all of their remaining games.
The run was jump started by an 88-82 home triumph over Real Madrid before the team’s most important victory of the regular season in Round 28 with a tough trip to Baskonia, where a superb 6-24 first quarter run was enough to secure a priceless away win.
The momentum continued with an overtime victory over CSKA before a road victory at Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in the final round gave the Greens home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
With a five-game winning run, a 14-1 record in Athens and its away form picking up at exactly the right time, Panathinaikos is heading into the playoffs – and another rematch with Obradovic – as the hottest team in the competition.