| Panathinaikos improved to 4-1 and kept tying atop the Group D standings by thrashing Asseco Prokom 65-75 in Gdynia, Poland on Wednesday night. Panathinaikos joins Real Madrid in a two-way tie for first place, even when BC Khimki can also go up to 4-1 if it defeats AJ Milano on the road tomorrow. Prokom went down to 1-3 and faces an important road game against Khimki last week. Drew Nicholas and Nikola Pekovic led the winners with 17 points apiece. Jan Jagla led Prokom with 17 points. Daniel Ewing added 16, Qyntel Woods had 15 while David Logan got 12 for the hosts. An outstanding Dimitris Diamantidis allowed Panathinaikos to get a double-digit lead, 13-25, at the end of the first quarter. Three-pointers by Jagla and Ewing gave Prokom some hope, 29-36, midway through the second quarter. A red hot Nicholas boosted the Greens' lead to 33-45 at halftime and Panathinaikos rolled after the break through an unstoppable Pekovic to break the game open, 44-65, at the end of the third quarter.
Prokom coach shocked everyone by placing Piotr Szczkota and Adam Hrycaniuk in the hosts' starting lineup. Ronnie Burrell got Prokom going with free throws but Stratos Perperoglou answered from downtown for a 2-3 Panathinaikos lead. Nicholas shined with a fast break layup, as Panathinaikos adjusted its offense to find Pekovic in the low post. Logan shined with a driving layup that Pekovic matched with a power basket. Once again Logan sank a floating layup but Nicholas struck twice from downtown to make Prokom call timeout at 6-14. Woods came off the bench and immediately followed a mid-range jumper with a big dunk. Prokom had entered the foul bonus, however, as Nicholas and Diamantidis hit free throws for a 10-18 score. Diamantidis kept pacing the Greens with a three-pointer while Giorgi Shermadini scored inside for a 10-23 Panathinaikos lead. Logan buried a three-pointer but more free throws by Diamantidis fixed the score at 13-25 after 10 minutes.
Jurica Golemac and Logan traded layups right at the start of the second quarter, as Prokom kept trying to speed up the game tempo, with short possessions and quick shots. Nick Calathes joined the three-point shootout but Jagla followed a put-back basket with a bomb from downtown to give the hosts some hope 21-30. Spanoulis and Ewing traded triples while Logan took over with a driving layup to make Panathinaikos call timeout at 26-33. Nicholas silenced the crowd with a corner triple but Ewing quickly answered from downtown for a 29-36 Prokom deficit. Nicholas - who else? - fired in another three-pointer that Woods erased with a layup-plus-foul. Panathinaikos had already entered the foul bonus but Prokom did not take advantage of it. Pekovic took over with a big basket in the low post while Nicholas buried his fifth triple from way downtown to make Panathinaikos restore a double-digit lead, 33-45, at halftime.
Prokom tried to be more aggressive in defense immediately after the break, forcing Panathinaikos to take off-balance shots. Prokom struggled to score, however, as a free throw by Pekovic kept the Greens way ahead, 33-46. Prokom had been scoreless for 3 minutes already while Shermadini finished a long Panathinaikos offense with a put-back layup. Woods rescued the hosts with a jumper and free throws by Pape Sow gave his team some hope at 37-48. Pekovic returned to the floor and immediately delivered with a power layup and free throws, good for a 15-point Panathinaikos lead at 37-52. Milenko Tepic capped a 0-8 run with a close basket, as Ewing stepped up with a big triple off a Prokom timeout. Jagla dunked it but Pekovic stayed unstoppable to give the Greens a 42-57 lead. A fast break layup by Tepic and a three-pointer by Calathes broke the game open, 42-63. Jagla sank a jumper that a second-chance layup by Shermadini gave the Greens a 44-65 margin after 30 minutes.
Prokom needed a quick comeback to get back in the game but Panathinaikos stayed focused and used long possessions to run the game clock down as fast as possible. Diamantidis fed Pekovic for a backdoor layup, making the hosts call timeout at 44-67. Jagla downed a rainbow three-pointer and Woods added a jumper but Panathinaikos did not panic and kept slowing down the game tempo. Pekovic sank free throws, as both teams fought for points difference midway through the fourth quarter. Shermadini kept pacing the Greens but Woods followed a jumper with a layup to make coach Zeljko Obradovic call timeout at 56-71 with under 3 minutes left. Even when Prokom kept trying, everything was said and done already. Panathinaikos confirmed its status as a solid contender to defend its Euroleague title while Prokom must improve right away to reach the Top 16.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009