Panathinaikos stage memorable comeback to become European champions. GETTY IMAGES

Panathinaikos overturned Real Madrid's 36-point first-quarter lead and, with a monumental performance from Sloukas, were crowned Euroleague Final Four basketball for the seventh time in their history.

The Euroleague Final Four basketball between Madrid and Panathinaikos promised to be a historic occasion, regardless of the winner. 

A victory for the Spanish giants would be their first back-to-back triumph since 1968 and take their European tally to 12. The Greeks, on the other hand, were seeking their first title in 15 years and would also become the most successful team of the century. Panathinaikos went into the final having won the trophy six times in just 11 Final Four appearances (55%), while Madrid had won it five times in 13 appearances, a respectable 38%.

Madrid started strongly on the offensive, with 8 points from Ndiaye (including 2 three-pointers), followed by the effective pick-and-roll play of Musa, a central weapon for the Spanish side in the first quarter.

They began to pull away from their opponents, who were not very aggressive in defence and struggled to get the ball to Lessort (who was overshadowed by Tavares and Poirier), and relied heavily on Nunn (7 attempts in the quarter compared to the next most active player's 2) and later on Sloukas, a specialist in stepping up when the going gets tough.

After a 36-25 first quarter, Panathinaikos went to the other extreme in the second quarter: super-aggressive defence on the ball, taking advantage of the absence of Campazzo, Musa and Hezonja due to rotation, and gaining confidence in attack, even though their 25 points in the first quarter were decent. 

They managed to get Lessort into the game and he began to outplay his compatriot Poirier, and from 27-41 they went into the break 49-54 (22-13 in their favour), showing who would finish the first half better against a slow and unthreatening Madrid attack featuring Chacho Rodríguez, Rudy and Llull together.

With Lessort and Luka Vildoza coming into their own, Sloukas began to dominate and by the end of the first half were only five points behind the defending European champions (54-49).

The first 5 minutes of the third quarter were a classic Madrid slump and the worst moment for Chus Mateo's team. Lacking intensity, they were overrun by Panathinaikos and to make matters worse, Campazzo, who had been their defensive sparkplug, picked up his third foul and had to leave the game. 

The quarter was terrible for the Spanish side in every way. Their three-point percentage plummeted from 4/6 to 4/18, but more importantly, their overall scoring dropped significantly as they were unable to exploit the middle of the court as they had earlier in the game. 

Real Madrid scored 36 points in the first quarter, 18 in the second and just 7 in the third - very poor for a team chasing the league title.

From then on, it was all Greek. Madrid were light, lacking intensity and, at times, even attitude, especially when Campazzo (12 points and 4 assists) left the court with fouls. Sergio Llul's two three-pointers gave them a glimmer of hope, which was quickly extinguished by the outstanding performance of Kostas Sloukas (a former star of their arch-rivals Olympiacos), who was a key figure and the undisputed MVP. The Greek guard scored 24 points without missing a field goal (2-of-2 from two and 4-of-4 from three). He missed only one of his nine free throws. He also had 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 7 fouls.  His final valuation was 31 credits.

Panathinaikos played with ease, a winning attitude and an impeccable overall mentality, and were true champions, not only playing better, but knowing how to turn the 36 points conceded in the first quarter into practically the same in the following three (in fact, they conceded 44 in 30 minutes), a miracle of defensive adjustment.

The final overwhelming 95-80 victory gave them their seventh EuroLeague title, making them the second most successful team in Europe (and possibly the world, after the NBA) with 7 titles, very close to CSKA Moscow, who have 8.

EuroLeague honours:

Real Madrid, 11 titles

CSKA Moscow, 8 titles

Panathinaikos, 7 titles

Maccabi Tel Aviv, 6 titles

Pallacanestro Varese, 5 titles

Olympiacos, Olimpia Milano, ASK Riga and KK Split, 3 titles

Barcelona, Bologna, Efes, Pallacanestro Cantù and Cibona, 2 titles

Dinamo Tbilisi, Fenerbahçe, Joventut Badalona, Zalgiris Kaunas, KK Bosna, Roma, Partizan and Limoges, 1 title.