Panathinaikos advanced to the Quarterfinal Playoffs by downing Lottomatica Roma 71-90 in the Italian capital in Group F on Thursday night. Panathinaikos stays undefeated in Top 16 Group I and its win against Lottomatica also allowed Partizan to seal its ticket to the playoffs. Panathinaikos hosts Partizan next week and the Greens will win Group I with a win against the Serbian powerhouse. Meanwhile, Lottomatica dropped to 0-4 and just as Unicaja, has run out of chances to reach the playoffs. Nikola Pekovic led the winners with 20 points and 7 rebounds. Mike Batiste added 17 points, Sarunas Jasikevicius had 14 while Drew Nicholas got 15 on 5-for-6 three-pointers for Panathinaikos. Ibby Jaaber led Lottomatica with 18 points. Roberto Gabini added 13 while Rodrigo De La Fuente got 11 for the hosts, that trailed 38-45 at halftime. Nicholas and Pekovic helped Panathinaikos to boost its margin to 40-54 right after the break. A rain of three-pointers by Gabini brought Lottomatica back to life, 50-55, but Jasikevicius, Antonis Fotsis and Pekovic allowed the Greens to seal the outcome midway through the fourth quarter.
Jaaber got Lottomatica going with a turnaround jumper while a put-back dunk by Angelo Gigli gave the hosts a 4-0 lead. Pekovic made free throws while a wide open three-pointer by Nicholas gave the Greens their first lead, 4-5. Panathinaikos dominated the boards while an uncontested layup by Pekovic and a jump hook by Batiste boosted the guests' lead to 4-9, after a 0-9 run. Andre Hutson sank his trademark baseline jumper, as Lottomatica now managed to match its opponents' toughness. Jaaber took over with a tip-in while Panathinaikos did not find open shots despite using long possessions. A triple by de La Fuente and a wild fast break dunk by Jaaber made Panathinaikos call timeout at 13-9. Batiste buried a jumper but a red hot Jaaber bettered it with a layup-plus-foul. Batiste kept pacing Panathinaikos with consecutive dunks but Primoz Brezec scored down low and also slammed it to keep Lottomatica ahead, 20-15. Jasikevicius nailed a corner three-pointer while Batiste added an outstanding dunk to tie it at 20-20 after 10 minutes.
Brezec took over with a two-handed dunk early in the second quarter but Jasikevicius erased it with a floating layup while free throws by Batiste restored a 22-24 Panathinaikos edge. Gigi Datome hit foul shots but Pekovic made a left-handed hook shot. A tip-in by Gabini tied the game again, 26-26, but Vassilis Spanoulis stepped up with more free throws. Lottomatica had entered the foul bonus but Datome scored again for a 28-28 tie. Roma improved its defense but missed open shots now. Meanwhile, a put-back layup by Pekovic restored a 28-30 Panathinaikos edge. Pekovic stayed unstoppable with foul shots but a five-meter jumper by De La Fuente kept Lottomatica as close as 30-32. Nicholas downed his second triple while a second-chance layup by Pekovic made it a seven-point game, 30-37. Jaaber buried a three-pointer but Nicholas immediately answered from downtown. De La Fuente followed free throws with a layup to keep Roma in the game, 38-42. Batiste nailed a seven-meter bomb to boost the Greens' margin to 38-45 at halftime.
An unstoppable Pekovic dunked it immediately after the break but a four-meter jumper by Brezec kept Lottomatica within 40-47. Panathinaikos tried to slow down the game tempo early in the third quarter but a corner three-pointer by Kostas Tsartsaris made it a double-digit game for the first time, 40-50. Nicholas fired in his fourth bomb from downtown to break the game open, 40-54. Lottomatica had been scoreless for almost 4 minutes until Jaaber stepped up with foul shots. Gabini soon added consecutive three-pointers to set the crowd on fire and bring Lottomatica back to life, 50-55, after a 10-1 run. Jasikevicius silenced the crowd with a bomb from downtown but Gabini sank yet another three-pointer. Pekovic and Jaaber traded baskets while free throws by Jasikevicius gave Panathinaikos some fresh air, 55-62. Pekovic kept pacing Panathinaikos with a tip-in while Spanoulis added free throws for a 55-66 Panathinaikos edge. Batiste dunked it while free throws by Sani Becirovic and De La Fuente fixed the score at 59-68 after three quarters.
Jasikevicius buried an off-balanced shot early in the fourth quarter, as Panathinaikos kept full control of the game now. Becirovic tried to change things with a put-back layup while Gabini added a wild reserve layup to bring Lottomatica within 63-70. Jasikevicius kept pacing Panathinaikos with another stop-and-pop jumper that Becirovic matched in the other end. Fotsis took over with a key three-pointer and soon added a put-back layup to seal the outcome, 65-77. Pekovic made free throws, as Lottomatica struggled to score right when it mattered. Panathinaikos had already started to use long possessions, trying to run the game clock down. Meanwhile, a layup by Dimitris Diamantidis capped a 0-10 run for a 65-82 Panathinaikos lead with under 3 minutes to go. Everything was said and done already, as Panathinaikos stays in the right track to return to the Final Four for the second time in three years while Lottomatica will keep looking for its first win in Group I with no chance to reach the playoffs.
Thursday, February 26, 2009