Panathinaikos improved to a league-best 11-0 this season and clinched first place in Group B with a 69-79 win over Lottomatica Roma at the Palalottomatica in the Italian capital on Thursday night. The win means that the Greens will be a No. 1 seed for the Top 16. Roma dropped to 4-7 and now share fifth place in the group with three other teams. The game was close for for much of the night and the hosts closed the gap to 2 early in the fourth quarter. However, Ramunas Siskauskas got hot and started firing in threes to carry the Greens to the win and the second best start to a Euroleague season all decade. Siskauskas made 4-of-5 threes to finish with 19 points, while Dimitrios Diamintidis added 12 and Nikos Hatzivrettas 10. Panathinaikos finished 10-for-18 (55.5%) from downtown. Roma's David Hawkins led all scorers with 20 and Dejan Bodiroga posted 14 points and 5 assists against his former team.
Panathinaikos drew first blood when Dejan Tomasevic split two free throws, but Hawkins replied immediately with a three-pointer in the opening minute of play. Tomasevic again received a pass down low and scored, but Roma attacked and Loukas Mavrokefalides made two free throws to put Roma 5-3 up. Diamintidis tied it and Demos Dikoudis added a layup to put the visitors ahead 5-7. Mire Chatman scored on a fast break, but Diamintidis's three made it 7-10. Bodiroga earned a trip to the charity stripe and converted both free throws. Diamintidis swatting shots by Hawkins and Chatman on consecutive trips down the floor. A fast break layup by Hawkins, triggered by an Ognjen Askrabic block, gave Roma an 11-10 lead. Panathinaikos continued to pound the ball down low and Robertas Javtokas scored on a strong move for an 11-13 advantage. After a 24-second shot-clock violation against Roma, Javtokas backed Luca Garri down low and scored again. Tony Delk then fed Milos Vujanic on a fast break to increase the lead to 11-17. Roma held the ball for the last shot, but Askrabic missed from the arc to end the first quarter.
Siskauskas continued the Panathinaikos run with a three-point play to start the second quarter, but Bodiroga made three the hard way to keep Roma in the picture. The hosts tried to give Panathinaikos some of their own medicine and succeeded when Askrabic scored from down low and then Bodiroga buried a long jump shot to cut the deficit to 18-20, forcing the visitors to call a timeout just two minutes into the period. After a three-second violation on Javtokas, Roma twice missed contested shots down low that would have tied the game and then turned the ball over on another fast-break opportunity. Hatzivrettas restored Panathinaikos's 5-point lead with a three. Roma again missed a fast break when Chatman's reverse layup rimmed out and Sani Becirovic hit a three to put the Greens on top by 9. Alex Righetti drained a three, but Hawkins missed two free throws to add to his very disappointing first half. Hatzivrettas buried another three-pointer for Panathinaikos before Bodiroga replied with a baseline jumper. The threat of another Diamantidis block forced Chatman to miss a layup as Roma's woes in transition continued. Righetti made one from the line and then Hatzivrettas angered coach Zeljko Obradovic when he missed a three-pointer instead of feeding the ball inside to a teammate as the first-half buzzer sounded with Panathinaikos leading 26-34.
Siskauskas's jump shot in the lane stretched the Panathinaikos lead to 10 at the start of the third quarter, before Hawkins hit a three from the corner. Kostas Tsartsaris tapped in Tomasevic's miss as Panathinaikos kept the pressure on. Bodiroga then forced his way through a double team to score up close. Hawkins then scored another three on Roma's next possession before Chatman picked off an errant Panathinaikos pass and went in for a dunk to trim the deficit to 36-38. Obradovic called time out. After play resumed, Tomasevic was fouled and he made both attempts from the line to put the visitors in front by 4. Chatman pulled up for an open three, but Panathinaikos kept the lead as Diamantidis made two from the line and Garri was whistled for his third foul. Tsartsaris drove the lane and scored over the Roma defense midway through the period. Hawkins turned the ball over on a fast break and then Hatzivrettas made a layup to increase the Greens' lead to 39-46. Tsartsaris made one from the line before Chatman scored in transition to cut the lead to 6. Siskauskas's layup made it 41-49. Mavrokefides fouled out early when he went over the back of Javtokas and the Lithuanian big man made one of two as Panathinaikos led 43-52. Garri was rewarded for his tenacious offensive rebounding and was fouled by Siskauskas. He made both free throws, but Siskauskas hit a three at the other end. Garri scored a long jumper to make it 47-55. Panathinaikos held on for the last shot of the period and Vujanic nailed a three to give the visitors a 47-58 lead going into the final stanza.
Alessandro Tonolli gave Roma a perfect start to the final quarter with a three-pointer. Bodiroga then added a three after a Righetti steal to trim the deficit to 5. Panathinaikos struggled on offense and it got worse when Javtokas fouled out setting an illegal screen. Garri picked up his fourth foul, but then drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key and suddenly Panathinaikos's was 56-58. Diamintidis ended his team's drought with its first two points of the quarter from the line. Hawkins fed a cutting Giacopo Giachetti who scored easily, but Panathinaikos's Dikoudis made one from the line. Tomasevic rebounded his miss and scored as Pana again led by 5. Diamintidis hit a three to make it 58-66 with 5 minutes remaining. Hawkins's three-point play reduced the deficit to 61-66. Siskauskas nailed two consecutive three-pointers to put his team up 61-72. Tonolli gave Roma fans hope with two free throws, but a Dikoudis basket took the lead 63-74 with three-and-a-half minutes left. With no time to waste, Askrabic drove down the lane and scored, but hot-handed Siskauskas hit another three before the shot-clock expired to drive a nail in Roma's coffin. With one minute left, Diamintidis came up with another steal and threw an alley-oop pass to Hatzivrettas, who took the lead to 65-79. Two Hawkins's baskets finished the scoring as Panathinaikos maintained their unbeaten run in Rome with a 69-79 victory.
Thursday, January 11, 2007