Top 16 Round 1 - January 29, 2009 CET: 19:45 Local time: 20:45 - O.A.K.A.

Records

Ave.   Ave.
0-0 Final Four 0-0
0-0 Playoffs 0-0
0-0 Top 16 0-0
7-3 Regular Season 5-5
7-3 Overall 5-5

Referees

Crew Chief
JUNGEBRAND, CARL, Finland
Referee
ANKARALI, RECEP, Turkey
Umpire
PATERNICO, CARMELO, Italy

Team Stats

Ave.   Ave.
76.3 Points 70.6
32.2 Rebounds 35.4
9.1 O. Rebounds 13.3
23.1 D. Rebounds 22.1
14.2 Assists 12.5
9.5 Steals 5.7
2.7 Blocks 3.7
15.2 Turnovers 15.0
58.8 % 2PT 51.0 %
33.6 % 3PT 34.3 %
73.0 % FT 69.9 %
84.6 Index 69.9

Player Stats

Ave.   Ave.
13.8 / Batiste Points 12.7 / Tepic
5.8 / Batiste Rebounds 6.8 / Lasme
2.0 / Batiste OR 2.9 / Lasme
3.8 / Batiste DR 3.9 / Lasme
3.6 / Diamantidis Assists 3.7 / Tepic
1.4 / Diamantidis Steals 1.1 / Lasme
0.7 / PEKOVIC, NIKOLA Blocks 1.6 / Lasme
2.5 / Batiste Turnovers 2.5 / Tepic
80.0 % / Sakota 2PT 83.3 % / Vesely
48.5 % / Diamantidis 3PT 66.7 % / S. Milosevic
100.0 % / Fotsis FT 100.0 % / S. Milosevic
17.9 / Diamantidis Index 14.8 / Tepic

THE TAKE

A new chapter will be written in a budding Euroleague rivalry on Thursday when Panathinaikos hosts Partizan Belgrade at the Athens Olympic Indoor Hall in the teams’ Group G opener. The Greek and the Serbian champs met last season four times, including twice in the Top 16 with Partizan knocking out the then-Euroleague champs on the last day of the round. What was already a spicy matchup since Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic had led Partizan to its only Euroleague crown in 1992 is now even hotter after the Greens signed Nikola Pekovic and Dusan Kecman away from Partizan over the summer. Panathinaikos dropped two of its last four regular season games, but is in better shape now that all of Obradovic’s players are healthy. Partizan finished the regular season with back-to-back wins, including a win at CSKA in the finale that clinched its Top 16 berth. Both teams are known for their tough defenses. Partizan’s biggest strength is on the glass as it led the regular season in offensive rebounds, while Panathinaikos was among the most efficient offenses as it led the league in two-point shooting. The battle inside between Partizan’s rebounders and Panathinaikos’s scorers could be what determines the outcome of this game. Pekovic teams with Mike Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris to lead the Greens inside against Novica Velickovic, Stephane Lasme, Jan Vesely and 2.29-meter Slavko Vranes. The Greens have the experience advantage in the backcourt with the likes of Sarunas Jasikevicius, Vassilis Spanoulis, Dimitris Diamantidis, Drew Nicholas and even Kecman, but Partizan counters with the young and hungry Milenko Tepic, Aleksandar Rasic and Uros Tripkovic. Small forwards Cedomir Vitkovac of Partizan and Stratos Perperoglou of Panathinaikos could prove to be X-factors. Jasikevicius and Spanoulis each scored 20 in the games against Partizan last season – the last time either of them have scored 20 in the Euroleague. A big night for either of them could prove the difference this time. Meanwhile Partizan has many of the same players as last time, but a much different look with Pekovic and Kecman gone. Partizan has proven to be a strong opponent on the road and head coach Dusko Vujosevic’s men will give everything to fight for the win, which could turn this game into a thriller that goes to the wire, which is what happened when they met at OAKA last year too.

GAME NOTES

Panathinaikos
  • Head coach Zeljko Obradovic served Partizan as both a player and a coach. He moved there from Borac Cacak and when he retired from his playing career, immediately became coach and led them to a fantastic 1991-92 season, as they won the club’s only Euroleague crown as well as the Yugoslavian national championship and the Yugoslavian Cup.
  • Center Nikola Pekovic and swingman Dusan Kecman will play against their previous team. The duo helped Partizan to beat the Greens at home, 82-73, in last season’s Top 16 finale to make it to the Quarterfinal Playoffs.
  • Forward Antonis Fotsis is 4 three-pointers away from 100 for his Euroleague career.
  • Guard Sarunas Jasikevicius is 10 assists away from becoming just the fourth player to reach the 500-assist mark in the Euroleague this decade. He is also just 3 steals shy of the 100-steal plateau.
Partizan
  • Guard Milenko Tepic has made at least one three-pointer in 15 consecutive Euroleague games. The streak dates back to the Top 16 last season. He has averaged 45.3% shooting from downtown during the streak.
  • Forward Cedomir Vitkovac recorded his Euroleague career-high in rebounding, 9, against Panathinaikos at OAKA last season.
  • Guard Uros Tripkovic achieved his career-high in steals, 5, against Panathinaikos in a January 2006 game. Tripkovic also scored 24 points in that game.
  • Forward Jan Vesely has not missed a two-point shot in the last three games (11 for 11) and was 15 for 16 in the second half of the regular season.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Euroleague.net

Quotes Head Coaches

OBRADOVIC, ZELJKO
Panathinaikos
"It is the first game in the Top 16 and everybody knows we have to defend our home court first and then look for some road wins to fulfill our goal. Meanwhile, we have to be aware that there are no easy games in this phase of the competition, especially the opening game against a team that we know very well since we faced them four times during the previous season. Partizan Belgrade is a very aggressive team. They have made some roster changes, but they have the same coach and almost the same philosophy, so we have to be very focused to start the Top 16 with an important win. Our practices have been better, the players' desire is much higher now and I am expecting a good performance."
VUJOSEVIC, DUSKO
Partizan
"After the draw I said our group is balanced and heavy. The fact that makes it heavy is that Panathinaikos came from the third seed even though it is one of European biggest names. Before the game in Athens it is normal to say they are favorite. They are not in the best shape, but there are lot of great players including a great coach. For them this is going to be one of the most important games in the Top 16. We will do our best and try to win. Our handicap is that we are traveling to Athens on the day of the game, early in the morning, due to the strike of airport workers in Greece."

Players

KECMAN, DUSAN
Panathinaikos
"It is going to be a tough game. It's the beginning of the Top 16 and we must be focused to get the positive result we need. Partizan played very well in the regular season. They play with a lot of energy, they get a lot of offensive rebounds, they don't allow easy baskets and they get a lot of fast breaks, so we must take care of the offensive boards. If we play the way we know, if we respond to their aggressiveness, I think we will be okay. And of course, we must start and finish from our defense. For me it will be a little bit difficult, since I played for this team last year. I am happy that I have the chance to see some of my old teammates and of course the coach, because we had an excellent atmosphere last year, both on and off the court. But, I am a professional, I am a player of Panathinaikos and I will do my best to try to help my team win this game."
TEPIC, MILENKO
Partizan
"We are starting our Top 16 story in Athens against one of the best Euroleague teams. We know each other well, last season we put them aside in the Top 16. My wish is to see both Partizan and Panathinaikos in the play offs. But we are all aware how strong the Greek champion is and how strong are the other two teams in our group. Anyway we are going to play one quality game in Athens with our friends Pekovic, Kecman and coach Obradovic, and other great players like Diamantidis, Spanoulis, Batiste, Jasikevicious, Fotsis and others."
Nikola Pekovic - PanathinaikosPanathinaikos opened difficult Group G in style and got revenge for a Top 16 ousting last season by running away to an 81-63 home win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday in Athens. After trailing for the game's first 25 minutes, the Greens blasted off for a 31-15 finish over the last quarter-and-a-half to send their first message in the group. Nikola Pekovic was a force of nature against his former team, collecting 26 points that included great 14-for-15 free throw shooting. Vassilis Spanoulis was the only other double-digit scorer for Panathinaikos, with 15 points. The Greens withstood blistering three-point shooting by Partizan early in the game and shut the visitors down when it mattered most. Novica Velickovic led Partizan with 13 points, while Stephane Lasme followed with 12 and Uros Tripkovic with 10. The teams were meeting for the first time since Partizan upset and eliminated Panathinaikos from the playoffs in the last Top 16 game of 2007-08.

Novica Velickovic - Partizan The game got underway with Slavko Vranes welcoming his former teammate, Pekovic, with a rejection, and soon after, Partizan rushed ahead 0-5 behind a triple and a layup on the fastbreak by Aleksandar Rasic. Pekovic responded with a power move inside, but Rasic bettered him with another bomb from downtown. After a Drew Nicholas scored for the hosts, Milenko Tepic joined Partizan's three-point party to give the guests a quick 4-11 advantage. The hosts anchored their offensive plays in the paint and Pekovic did not falter, contributing 4 points, however, in the other end Velickovic sank a triple to keep Partizan in charge, 8-14. Pekovic responded with free throws and then Mike Batiste came off the bench to score inside before Spanoulis tied it 14-14 for Panathinaikos after a steal. Still, Partizan was deadly from downtown, having hit 6 of 7 three-pointers after 8 minutes by the time long-distance strikes by Velickovic and Petar Bozic stretched the lead to 14-20. Panathinaikos unleashed a full-court press, but the guests did not panic and Bozic fired in another triple to make it 16-23. It wasn't long though before the Greens bounced back thanks to Spanoulis, who spearheaded a 6-0 run to close the gap, 22-23, at the end of the first quarter.

Velickovic ended a couple of silent minutes to start the second quarter with another triple. After Pekovic muscled his way inside for 5 points to pull Panathinaikos within 27-28, Tripkovic kept up the Partizan marksmanship with a triple of his own. Antonis Fotsis copied him, but Velickovic and Lasme rebuilt Partizan's lead to 30-35. The pace of the game was now frenetic, as both teams were eager to step on the gas and score easy points on the break. Panathinaikos kept close at Partizan's heels behind layups by Dimitris Diamantidis and Stratos Perperoglou, nonetheless the Partizan youngsters kept their composure. First, Tripkovic hit a jumper and then Lasme swatted away Perperoglou's layup before hitting his own free throws as Partizan held onto a gutsy 36-41 half-time advantage.

Vassilis Spanoulis - PanathinaikosPartizan came out for the second half determined to keep Panathinaikos in catch-up mode, as indicated by Lasme's flashy one-handed dunk on the break. Fotsis cut the lead to 39-43 with a triple, however, and few moments later Spanoulis made an off-balanced jumper to make it a two-point game. Tepic revived Partizan by blasting a triple from the corner, but Panathinaikos soon picked up defensive intensity -Dusan Kecman was a key factor- and Spanouls unlocked Partizan's defense with his slaloms to tie the game and bring the crowd to its feet. Vranes tipped a ball in to put Partizan ahead once more, but another jumper by Spanouls proved Panathinaikos meant business. Midway through the third quarter, Pekovic scored an offensive rebound and the free throw that came with it to give Panathinaikos its first lead, 50-48. Tripkovic and Velickovic came out empty in the subsequent possessions, unlike Perperoglou, who added 2 free throws at 52-48. Partizan seemed to have cooled off offensively, but their rare ability to gobble up rebounds allowed the guests to stay close, 55-52, after 30 minutes.

Pekovic hit free throws to open the fourth-quarter scoring before Sarunas Jasikevicius drove the baseline for a scoop shot that boosted the margin to 59-52. Cedomir Vitkovac answered back for Partizan, but Pekovic forced his frontcourt opponents to bow behind his low-post brilliance, putting back his fourth offensive rebound to make it 61-54. Diamantidis put on a defensive clinic, first stealing from Tepic and then blocking Vitkovac's shot. To top it off, he sank a triple to forge a double-digit lead, 66-55, with 5:52 remaining. Out of a timeout, Lasme broke the ice for Partizan but Kecman punished his former team from beyond the arc. Partizan was clearly struggling against the passionate Panathinaikos defense and soon Pekovic's free throws widened the gap to 72-57. The rest was about padding the difference as Panathinaikos looked ahead to potential point differences that might come into play in a tough group.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Epameinondas Tsakalos - Athens
Referees: JUNGEBRAND, CARL (FIN), ANKARALI, RECEP (TUR), PATERNICO, CARMELO (ITA)
Attendance: 10000
By Quarter1234
Panathinaikos22141926
Partizan23181111
End of Quarter1234
Panathinaikos22365581
Partizan23415263
Head coach: OBRADOVIC, ZELJKO
Panathinaikos
# Player Min Pts 2FG
M-A
3FG
M-A
FT
M-A
Rebounds As St To Bl Fouls PIR
O D T Fv Ag Cm Rv
4 ALVERTIS, FRAGISKOS DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5 KECMAN, DUSAN 12:04 3   1/1                   3    
6 SPANOULIS, VASSILIS 25:06 15 5/8 0/2 5/6   4 4 3 1 2   1 4 6 16
7 PERPEROGLOU, STRATOS 31:04 9 2/3 0/2 5/6 1 2 3 2 2 1   1 1 4 13
8 BATISTE, MIKE 25:07 6 3/5 0/2   2 4 6     1 1 1   2 9
9 FOTSIS, ANTONIS 23:41 6 0/1 2/3     5 5     1 1   3 1 7
10 HATZIVRETTAS, NIKOS DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
11 NICHOLAS, DREW 9:54 2 1/1 0/2                   1 1  
13 DIAMANTIDIS, DIMITRIS 34:14 8 1/3 2/3   1 2 3 3 2 1 1   1 3 15
14 PEKOVIC, NIKOLA 28:52 26 6/10   14/15 6   6 1   4   2 2 8 28
15 SAKOTA, DUSAN DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
19 JASIKEVICIUS, SARUNAS 9:58 6 3/5 0/1                 1 5   -3
Team           1 1 2   1           3
Totals 200:00 81 21/36 5/16 24/27 11 18 29 9 6 10 3 6 20 25 88
58.3% 31.3% 88.9%
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
Head coach: VUJOSEVIC, DUSKO
Partizan
# Player Min Pts 2FG
M-A
3FG
M-A
FT
M-A
Rebounds As St To Bl Fouls PIR
O D T Fv Ag Cm Rv
5 TEPIC, MILENKO 27:01 8 0/3 2/5 2/2 1 1 2 2 1 4 1 1   4 7
8 MILOSEVIC, STRAHINJA DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
10 RASIC, ALEKSANDAR 26:12 8 1/2 2/5         2 2 5 1   1 3 6
11 TRIPKOVIC, UROS 21:33 10 2/7 1/5 3/4   1 1 2   2     3 2  
12 VELICKOVIC, NOVICA 21:47 13 2/4 3/4   2 1 3 2       1 2 2 14
13 LASME, STEPHANE 32:45 12 4/6 0/1 4/4 1 4 5     5 2   2 6 15
14 ALEKSIC, VUKASIN DNP - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
15 VITKOVAC, CEDOMIR 15:24 2 1/2     1 1 2   1 1   1 2    
20 BOZIC, PETAR 5:14 6   2/2                   5 2 3
22 RAKOCEVIC, ZARKO 9:51 2 1/3               1     1   -2
24 VESELY, JAN 27:32   0/1     2 3 5 2 1       4   3
33 VRANES, SLAVKO 12:41 2 1/2     2 3 5       2   5   3
Team           3 2 5               5
Totals 200:00 63 12/30 10/22 9/10 12 16 28 10 5 18 6 3 25 19 54
40% 45.5% 90%
This game is not yet played

Head Coaches

OBRADOVIC, ZELJKO
Panathinaikos
"I believe that we played two completely different halves. Partizan started in great shape and was very effective from beyond the arc. They managed to score 6 triples in as many minutes early on in the game. We were not patient against their zone defense and as a result, we had trouble in the first half. Of course, things got better in the second half. We played much better team defense, forcing Partizan to shoot only 7 for 26. In addition, our good defense allowed us to run and score easy points in the fast break. We used our big players on offense, so we had the chance to penetrate more often and play the pick-and-roll better. It was an important victory for us and I want to thank our fans for their support. I truly believe that with hard work, we’ll manage to qualify to the next phase. What we have to realize though is that in this stage, every possession, every basket, every game is important. One single result can determine whether we will qualify or not. This is something we should never forget."
VUJOSEVIC, DUSKO
Partizan
"Congratulations to Panathinaikos for the win. There were a lot of differences between the first and the second half. We did not press them as much as we had to in order to contain them on offense. We had trouble stopping them in the paint and our frontcourt players failed to collaborate with one another. Often we were forced to finish our plays in the final seconds, which is not the proper thing to do. Our defense was problematic in the second half and I am not satisfied with the way we played. I prepared my players to expect a very aggressive Panathinaikos team, but that wasn’t enough. It was an important game for both teams. Hopefully, there is a lesson to be learned from this game and we’ll play better in our next match. As far as Pekovic is concerned, he played a fantastic game."

Players

PEKOVIC, NIKOLA
Panathinaikos
"We knew that it was going to be a difficult game because Partizan is performing exceptionally well this season. We expected a big fight. In the first half we played poorly, but we improved our performance in the second half. We tightened our defense, we actually played defense the way we wanted to play all season long. Now it’s time to focus on the next game. My performance does not matter. Whether I score just 1 point or more points, the team is above all. It wasn’t easy for me to play against Partizan, however I am a professional player and as soon as I entered the court, I forgot my past. We must keep working hard in order to perform even better in the upcoming games."
PERPEROGLOU, STRATOS
Panathinaikos
"We played some stifling defense in the second half, which was our main goal tonight. Now, we must move on and stay focused as the next few months are crucial for the outcome of the season. We let Partizan hit many open shots and allowed them to stay in the game. We should step up on defense the moment we enter the court. I think that hard practices will help us improve on this aspect of our game."
LASME, STEPHANE
Partizan
"In the second half we couldn’t find the solution against the tough Panathinaikos defense and we let them take the lead. The main problem was that we failed to connect in the second half. Also we made some minor mistakes on defense that Panathinaikos capitalized on. We had a hard time stopping Pekovic, but, as I said, the key of the game was that we didn’t really connect in the second half. Panathinaikos plays great defense, but it’s not the first time that we faced a team that prides itself on defense. A lot of Euroleague teams play great defense."
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