The Greek Cup basketball final was struck by violence Sunday, with fans storming the court and tearing seats apart, and police using stun grenades to contain the mayhem.
The game was suspended for an hour before Panathinaikos defeated archrival Olympiakos 81-78 in front of nearly empty stands.
The trouble began with 7:03 left in the second quarter and Panathinaikos leading 26-17. Panathinaikos' Stefan Lasme tangled with Pero Antic under the basket and head-butted his opponent, drawing a technical foul.
Olympiakos fans responded by throwing objects onto the court, with one hitting Panathinaikos' Greek-American guard Mike Bramos, who was on the bench.
Fans then ran onto the court and exchanged blows, forcing riot police to intervene — at one point using the stun grenades. Olympiakos fans tried to storm the VIP section and tossed seats at police.
The referees stopped the game and declared, over objections from both clubs, they would not restart play until the stands were evacuated. Some people remained in the VIP section, along with the media, riot police and security staff.
Authorities, fearful of violence, had already limited fan attendance at the Hellinikon arena to 900 from each team. The arena now seats 8,000 but its capacity at the 2004 Athens Olympics, when it hosted men's and women's basketball preliminaries, was 14,500.
The fans were placed at opposite ends of the arena, separated by hundreds of riot police. But some fans still threw flares before the game, one of which hit Olympiakos forward Kyle Hines during warmups. Hines was not hurt.
Violence has become commonplace at Greek sports events, be it soccer, basketball, volleyball or water polo. Greek clubs typically compete in several sports, making it harder for police to contain violent fan rivalry. In 2007, hundreds of rival fans of Panathinaikos and Olympiakos clashed outside a women's volleyball game. A 25-year-old fan died after being stabbed numerous times and beaten on the head with a bat.
As a result, visiting team fans are not allowed to attend games in men's soccer and basketball.
Violence is far less a problem at international games in Greece because sports federations have imposed heavy sanctions on Greek teams in the past, including fines and suspensions.