BELGRADE (Reuters) - Six-time Euroleague winners Panathinaikos started the competition’s second group stage with an 83-76 home win over holders Maccabi Tel Aviv while Galatasaray beat Zalgiris Kaunas 78-69 in an empty arena on Tuesday.
The first round of the Top 16, featuring two groups of eight teams, continues on Friday when Red Star Belgrade entertain Real Madrid in the match of the week and Fenerbahce are at home to CSKA Moscow in the other outstanding fixture.
Maccabi made a brighter start in Athens and seemed to be in control after carving out a 35-22 lead in the latter stages of the first half, with the home side unable to counter their fast breaks, which resulted in a barrage of spectacular slam dunks.
But Panathinaikos stormed back after their Montenegrin coach Dusko Ivanovic threw 34-year old playmaker Dimitris Diamantidis into the fray, blunting Maccabi’s offense in the fourth quarter.
”We were patient and played better defense in the second half to beat a very good Maccabi side,” a delighted Ivanovic told Euroleague television.
Uruguayan center Esteban Batista led the Greek outfit with 16 points, Americans James Gist and A.J. Slaughter added 15 apiece and Diamantidis finished with 11 and seven assists.
Brian Randle and Nate Linhart netted 18 points each for Maccabi and their athletic center Alex Tyus also stood out with 14 and 11 rebounds.
Galatasaray also overturned a first-half deficit in a match played behind closed doors with the Turkish side serving a three-game crowd ban after fan violence led to the death of a Red Star Belgrade supporter before their match in November.
Against Zalgiris, playmaker Sinan Guler and Serbian forward Zoran Erceg scored 14 points each for Galatasaray, former NBA guard Carlos Arroyo added 12 and center Kerem Gonlum chipped in with 10 and six rebounds in a fluid team effort.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; editing by Toby Davis