Panathinaikos improved to 7-2 in Group D and kept chances to finish first at the end of the regular season by edging Asecco Prokom Gdynia 74-66 in Athens, Greece on Wednesday night. Panathinaikos provisionally leads the Group D standings but Real Madrid is right behind at 6-2, faces EWE Baskets Oldenburg tomorrow and has the tie-break advantage against the Greens. Meanwhile, Prokom dropped to 3-5 and may be out of the Top 16 race tomorrow if AJ Milano beats BC Khimki Moscow Region on the road tomorrow. Mike Batiste and Drew Nicholas paced the winners with 13 points apiece. Nikola Pekovic added 10 for Panathinaikos. Daniel Ewing led Prokom with 19 points. Qyntel Woods added 16 while Ronnie Burrell had 12 for the guests. Batiste allowed Panathinaikos to get an early 16-6 lead but Woods and Ewing allowed Prokom to get within 23-18 after 10 minutes. A big dunk by Batiste boosted the Greens' lead to 28-18 but Ewing and an unstoppable Burrell made Prokom get its first lead, 36-28, seconds before halftime. Panathinaikos trailed throughout the third quarter but a three-point play by Vassilis Spanoulis helped the Greens to regain the lead, 51-50, after 30 minutes. It all came down to the final 3 minutes, as free throws by Jan Jagla got Prokom within 66-62. Batiste and Sarunas Jasikevicius allowed Panathinaikos to seal the outcome down the stretch.
Batiste got Panathinaikos going with an easy basket that Burrell matched with a put-back jumper off the glass. Nicholas scored in penetration, Batiste added a layup in transition and an open three-pointer by Antonis Fotsis made Prokom call timeout at 9-2. The guests kept struggling to score and Fotsis capped a 9-0 run with free throws. Prokom had been scoreless for more than 4 minutes until Woods shined with a fast break dunk. Batiste nailed a mid-range shot and Stratos Perperoglou downed a three-pointer to boost the Greens' lead to 16-6. David Logan took over with a layup-plus-foul and Ewing struck from downtown to bring Prokom back to life, 16-11. Panathinaikos tried to improve its offense with Pekovic on court, making him play one-on-one against Adam Lapeta in the low post. Pekovic hit free throws that Woods erased with a close jumper. Milenko Tepic and Ewing traded triples, as coach Zeljko Obradovic used Batiste and Pekovic together on court now. Free throws by Jasikevicius, Woods and Spanoulis fixed the score at 23-18 after 10 minutes.
Both teams struggled to score early in the second quarter, as Prokom tried to open the court with Jagla at power forward. Tepic stepped up with a fast break layup and Giorgi Shermadini added a free throw to keep Panathinaikos out of trouble at 26-18. Jasikevicius fed Batiste for a power dunk that made the hosts restore a double-digit lead, 28-18, soon after that. Ratko Varda rescued Prokom with an easy basket and Burrell added an alleyoop layup for a 29-22 score. Nicholas bettered Burrell's dunk with a seven-meter bomb but an unstoppable Woods shined with back-to-back layups to make Panathinaikos call timeout at 32-28. Prokom kept dominating the game tempo with outstanding defense, not allowing any open shots. Ewing took over with a fallaway jumper - and the free throws that came with it, good for a 32-21 Prokom deficit. Pekovic came out of nowhere for a tip-in but a red hot Ewing tied it with a triple, 34-34. Jasikevicius hit free throws but Burrell followed another dunk with an acrobatic layup to give Prokom its first lead, 36-38, at halftime.
Logan sank a five-meter jumper immediately after the break but Nicholas answered from downtown to get the Greens within 39-40. Lapeta hit free throws, as Prokom tried to play with more patience in offense, finding Varda down low to open the floor for Woods and Logan. Varda shined with a big basket in the low post, as Panathinaikos kept missing open shots from downtown. Pekovic stepped up with a second-chance basket, as Panathinaikos now tried to run its offense through him. Kostas Tsartsaris added free throws to get the crowd involved at 43-44. Ewing sank a stop-and-pop jumper but Tsartsaris matched with a driving layup. Prokom lept following its game plan, closing all passing lines in defense and trying to find Ewing and Woods in transition. Woods took over with a fast break dunk but a layup by Batiste and a free throw by Tepic helped the Greens to tie the game, 48-48. Adam Hrycaniuk shined with a pit-back layup but a three-point play by Spanoulis restored a 51-50 Panathinaikos lead after 30 minutes.
Burrell scored again - his first points in this half - early in the fourth quarter but free throws by Batiste and a layup by Nick Calathes kept the Greens ahead, 54-52. Prokom tried to attack the basket to go to the foul often, so coach Obradovic opted to play physical with Perperoglou, Batiste and Tsartsaris together on court. Perperoglou sank free throws on Jagla's unsportsmanlike foul but Woods kept Prokom as close as 56-55 with 6 minutes left. Panathinaikos found Pekovic for an easy basket, as Prokom had entered the foul bonus already. Jasikevicius and Lapeta traded free throws, as Panathinaikos improved its defense. A big triple by Nicholas made the guests call timeout at 62-56. Calathes scored off a steal to cap a 8-1 Panathinaikos run. Woods tried to change things with free throws but Calathes fed Pekovic for a layup that gave his team a six-point lead, 66-60, with 2:30 left. Jagla hit free throws but an alleyoop dunk by Batiste sealed the outcome, 68-62, with over a minute left. A jumper by Jasikevicius allowed all Panathinaikos fans to celebrate their team's first Euroleague home win in 2010.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010