After both teams played their parts in a classic Euroleague matchup of great teams, Montepaschi hung on for an 82-77 victory in Group B over visiting Panathinaikos at home in Siena, Italy on Thursday. Despite improving to 7-2 while Panathinaikos dropped to 6-3, Montepaschi cannot claim second place in the group yet as each club won its home game against the other by 5 points. Second place will belong to Montepaschi if it wins the last regular season game or if both it and Panathinaikos lose. The game was a back-and-forth affair without many big runs but with plenty of high quality featuring a dominating inside performance by Panathinaikos center Mike Batiste, who collected 28 points and 8 rebounds. But it was the little-used Marco Carreretto who was the hero for Montepaschi with 15 points on 5-of-5 three-point shooting - a point more than he had totaled in his previous four appearances. Montepaschi knocked down 13 of 31 attempts from long range and forced 27 Panathinaikos turnovers in grabbing the victory. Terrell McIntyre led Montepaschi with 21 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Henry Domercant scored all 10 of his points in the first half while Ksistof Lavrinovic also tallied 10 points along with 8 rebounds and 5 steals. Shaun Stonerook finished with 5 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals. Besides Batiste, Panathinaikos did not really have another weapon. Dimitris Diamantidis collected 11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Sarunas Jasikevicius added all 11 of his points in the final 13 minutes to go along with 4 assists. And Vassilis Spanoulis chipped in 9 points on three triples as well as 5 assists. But it was just not enough for Panathinaikos.
Benjamin Eze opened the game with a dunk for the hosts, who were playing without Morris Finley and Rimantas Kaukenas. And Panathinaikos answered with its tried and true pick-and-roll with Batiste getting a dunk. A long three-pointer miss by Montepaschi turned into a fast break lay-up by Stratos Perperoglou and then Batiste threw down another dunk to make it 2-6 early. After a Montepaschi time-out, Batiste made two foul shots for a 2-8 lead before Domercant got Montepaschi out of its offensive rut with a three-point shot. Lavrinovic trimmed the margin to one point only to have Perperoglou drain a long ball and the lead grew back to 7-11. Domercant sandwiched baskets around a Batiste score and Carraretto's first big three-point shot gave Montepaschi a 14-13 advantage. Perperoglou answered with a dunk only to have McIntyre drain back-to-back three-point shots for a 20-15 lead. And Drew Nicholas got Panathinaikos within 20-18 with a three-point shot just before the first quarter ended.
Diamantidis opened the second quarter with a lay-up after a pick-and-roll to even the game at 20-20. Montepaschi however used the long ball to get some breathing room as Domercant and Arriel McDonald knocked down three-pointers for a 26-22 lead. And another triple by the newly-acquired veteran McDonald pushed the margin to 29-24. A Batiste dunk after a pick-and-roll with Spanoulis made it a three-point game, but Eze put back an offensive rebound and converted the three-point ply for a 32-26 lead. Spanoulis came back down and hit a three-point shot for Pana. Stonerook however grabbed the offensive rebound and hit the circus shot put-back to make it 34-29. Montepaschi was working harder than the guests at both ends and Romain Sato pushed the lead to eight points on a three-point shot from the wing, 37-29. It was 39-31 when Nicolas and Dimantidis hit back-to-back long balls to cut the margin to two points. But Sato and McIntyre both made two foul shots to give Montepaschi a 43-37 lead at the break.
The hosts struggled out of the gates in the second half with three turnovers and a missed three-pointer in their first four possessions. Batiste hit a layup then Dimantidis made two foul shots and the lead dwindled down to 43-41. Montepaschi got the ball into the paint though and Eze dunked for Montepaschi's first basket of the second half. Spanoulis however knocked down a three-point shot to give Athens the lead 45-46. Lavrinovic picked Batiste's pocket and threw down a dunk on the break for a 48-46 lead before Carraretto hit a big triple for a five point lead. And McIntyre's two foul shots gave Montepaschi a 53-46 cushion. Nikos Hatzivrettas stopped the 8-0 run with a three-point shot from the corner. But Carreretto struck again to make it 56-49. Stonerook had a chance to give Montepaschi a 10-point lead but missed a three-point shot. Jasikevicius did not miss however, draining his first shot of the night - a trey - to cut the deficit to four points, 56-52. Batiste then made two foul shots, another dunk and two more free throws to knot the game at 59-59. And the teams were deadlocked at 61-61 after three periods.
Jasikevicius opened the fourth quarter with a driving layup and then Batiste hit a turn-around jumper in the lane as Panathinaikos jumped ahead 61-65. McIntyre made one free throw after a technical foul on Batiste but on the ensuing possession, Lavrinovic threw the ball away and Jasikevicius converted a three point play as Pana appeared poised for the road victory, ahead 62-68. Montepaschi twice missed three-pointers but got the offensive rebound and also drew two fouls on the Greens in one possession, which ended in Lavrinovic making two free throws to cut the lead to 64-68. And it was 66-68 after an Eze lay-in. But Batiste answered with another authoritative dunk and Spanoulis drained a triple from the corner and Athens was back ahead 68-73. Lavrinovic and Batiste both missed opportunities for three-point plays before McIntyre drove to the lane, was hammered by Batiste but made the lay-up and the extra free throw to bring Montepaschi within 73-75. Stonerook came up with a fine steal on Hatzivrettas and then left it on the wing for Carraretto, who drained his fourth three-point shot and put Montepaschi ahead 76-75. Jasikivicius answered with a jumper in the lane before McIntyre would hit a triple over Spanoulis for a 79-77 lead. Sato then came up with an outstanding defensive play, deflecting the inbounds pass from mid-court off Diamantidis and out of bounds. McIntyre would miss the three-point shot but Montepaschi got the offensive rebound and would swing the ball to Carreretto for another three-pointer and an 82-77 lead. Diamantidis was off from long range at the other end. And Montepaschi called a timeout with 8 seconds left hoping to win by more than 5 points and clinch second place. But the night's hero Carrerotto could not get a shot off before the buzzer.
Thursday, January 8, 2009