PAO punches ticket to final as Lessort stars while Fener suffers from shooting woes

May 24, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Panathinaikos punched their ticket to the Euroleague final with a convincing 73-57 win over Fenerbahce as an early 12-0 run set the table for the Greeks and helped them get off to the start they needed to overwhelm the Turkish squad.

Mathias Lessort was tremendous all game with a 17 point and 10 rebound double-double to earn the MVP award for his efforts that saw the French big dominate at both ends of the floor while also providing a number of highlight reel dunks for the fans as Kendrick Nunn with 14 points hit the big shots when they counted most. But the oft-maligned Jerian Grant with 13 points was key in the first half keeping Ergin Ataman’s team in the lead throughout.

Mathias Lessort – Photo credit: Euroleague

For Fenerbahce who started so poorly but came back to within 2-points at halftime, the theme was how many shots were they going to miss as it was one attempt after the next that didn’t find the sweet spot. For one Scottie Wilbekin it was a game to forget as the guard went 1/5 from two and 0/5 from 3 while finishing with a brutal -24 in +/- and -9 in efficiency rating as he epitomized the shooting woes to a “T”

Jitters was the name of the game as the forts semi fall between Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce got underway but the Greens took full advantage of the game delay to go on a massive 12-0 run to get the proceedings underway. Triples from Kendrick Nunn and Jerian Grant plus a dunk by Konstantinos Mitoglou gave Ergin Ataman’s charges a 12-0 lead forcing Saras Jasikevicius to mercifully call timeout.

Mathias Lessort – Photo credit: Euroleague

The PAO fans right underneath the press box were whipped up into a frenzy as Fener’s players kept shooting blank after blank allowing Marius Grigonos, Kostas Sloukas and a massive dunk from Mathias Lessort with emotion, sweat and tears gave Panathinaikos a 22-13 lead after ten minutes of play.

Prior to the game there was chaos outside of the arena when a scuffle broke out between the fan groups which led to what was apparently a “break-in” by some local Fenerbahce supporters to put the facility on lockdown and delay the start of the game by close to 30 minutes. It’s unclear who was to blame but both the local organizing committee, the police and the Euroleague will need to take a good hard look at how this black eye occurred.

Kendrick Nunn – Photo credit: Euroleague

Nunn picked up right where they left off with a deuce by Nunn, but Marko Guduric drained a 3-pointer at the other end while Scottie Wilbekin did as well to drop the lead quickly, but Nunn does as Nunn does and drilled home a triple in all of his glory to bump the lead right back up to 32-23 midway through the second quarter.

The former green Georgios Papagiannis tried to make a dent in the PAO lead while Nigel Hayes Davis helped as well but Lessort went into Superman mode with a mega dunk and then a block at the other end. The small things that everyone spoke about at the pregame presser helped the greens again with Grigonis getting a loose ball and putting in a pair, but Fener who chipped away and chipped away with Hayes Davis filling the hoop to miraculously pull to within 38-36 at the break.

The small details, the little things. That was theme on Thursday as one coach after the next and one player after the next kept preaching about that one missed rebound, that one turnover, that one poor pass, that one free throw would be the difference maker as Nigel Hayes-Davis said you could go to sleep years later thinking about what could have been.

Nigel Hayes-Davis – Photo credit: Euroleague

Nick Calathes who had been quiet over the course of the first half started toy get it going with points from outside and the inside, but Jerian Grant matched him shot for shot at the other end to keep the game neck-and-neck with PAO still holding a 48-45 lead with 4:43 left in the third quarter.

Mathias Lessort – Photo credit: Euroleague

Instead of scoring this time around Hayes-Davis dished the rock out to former Hapoel Holon forward Nate Sestina for a wide open 3-pointer while ex-Maccabi guard Tyler Dorsey received the same service from Hayes-Davis for a deuce of his own to pull to within a single point, but all of sudden Fener missed one attempt after the next which allowed Panagiotis Kalaitzakis the opportunity to drill home a corner 3-ball to give PAO a tad bit of breathing room, 56-50 after thirty minutes of action.

Fener had come oh so close at 51-50 but Saras’s men couldn’t find the bottom of the basket as Ataman’s defense forced Fener’s players to use up the shot clock and then come up with a rushed attempt from Guduric, Serra’s Sanli and Scottie Wilbekin as the shooting woes killed the pivotal chance to go ahead.

Mathias Lessort – Photo credit: Euroleague

Lessort who was a disaster from the line when Panathinaikos played Maccabi Tel Aviv started to receive the treatment that he experienced from the yellow-and-blue when he missed one free throw after the next, but in this game the center hit 4/6 to Fener’s dismay as each of those points made a huge difference in the lead for Ataman’s squad while he also scored inside as he did to begin the final frame.

The misses continued for the Turkish club as the roll call of Sestina, Traik Biberovic, Hayes-Davis and Guduric saw their attempts rattle off the rim, go in and out and totally miss the spot as Ioannis Papapetrou scored and Nunn with a 3-point play gave PAO a 64-52 lead with 4:37 remaining in regulation time.

Kendrick Nunn – Photo credit: Euroleague

Lessort’s airshow continued, while Fener’s shooting display or lack thereof did as well when Wilbekin lined himself up for a gimme 3-pointer from the corner and still couldn’t get his shot to fall while Nunn came up with the same attempt and saw his ball drop right down the bucket to polish the game off and send his team to the final.

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