Panathinaikos survived a series of tough games through the last few weeks with the final game in EuroLeague being an important win over top-4 rivals Fenerbahce. Since round 21, the Greens played most of the games without captain Kostas Sloukas.
Sloukas was dealing with a re-aggrevated adductor injury and remained sideline for several weeks as Panathinaikos wanted to protect its star point-guard ahead of the tough. This week, EuroLeague enters a 2-week hiatus as the competition will restart on Feb.29.
While the Greek giants do not have ample of time to regroup, as Panathinaikos will compete in the Final-8 of the Greek Cup, they expected to have Kostas Slouka back as Ataman protected him by keeping him out for Friday’s contest.
His return will be a huge relief as Panathinaikos struggled with its offense during Sloukas absence. Fortunately, Ergin Ataman’s squad was kept together thanks to some elite perfomances from Kendrick Nunn, Jerian Grant and its sturdy defense.
Kostas Sloukas missed his team’s last 4 games and Panathinakos evidently did not have some of its offensive punch. However, the Greens kept it under control and finished with a 2-2 record without their captain.
That was a very positive outcome for the Greek giants as they have based their record in their defensive effectiveness with big perfomances from Grant, Panagiotis Kalaitzakis and Juancho Hernangomez in the defensive end.
Stats show Panathinaikos missed Kostas Sloukas, but Nunn kept its offense afloat
In the games that Panathinaikos had a sturdy a defensive plan, the team got the win (against Milan and Fenerbahce). However, its offensive production dropped and Kostas Sloukas‘ absence was the main reason behind that. To put it mindly, the Greek team’s assist to turnover ratio was not great.
In the 80-68 loss to Zalgiris, Ergin Ataman’s squad finished the game with 15 turnovers and just 12 assists. The same situation occurred in the 90-75 loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv as Panathinaikos finished the game with 15 assists and 15 turnovers. Even in the win against Fener, Panathinaikos finished with more turnovers than assists (9 to 11).
In both games that the team lost, the Greek giants allowed more than 80 points and lost with more than 10 to their opponents. The Greens offensive production dropped and the movement in offense was more predictable with Kendrick Nunn being the spearhead of Ataman’s plan.
Ataman knew that his team needed Nunn to have an increased usage with Sloukas sidelined and the former Heat and Lakers guard answered the call with 72 attempts in the last 4 games. He averaged 18.0 points, 3.2 assists and a PIR OF 11.5.
Despite dropping in efficiency, the American guard kept Panathinaikos offense afloat in crucial moments. For example, he scored 19 of his 23 points vs. Fenerbahce in the second half with 9 points coming in the final period of the game pushing Fener’s comeback aside.
There’s a reason Panathinaikos paid Sloukas the past summer. The primary one is that the Greek international is one of the best EuroLeague players in setting up offenses and creating quality shots for his teammates.
Obviously, Sloukas potential return will help the Greens go back to a more team-oriented style and move the ball better providing more movement and unpredictability to his team’s offense in the coming crucial weeks.