Panathinaikos marched to its third victory in as many Top 16 games by routing Lottomatica Roma 92-67 at OAKA in what was a homecoming for some of the Greens’ favorite sons. Before the game, Panathinaikos honored Roma guard Sani Becirovic, head coach Nando Gendile and general manager Dejan Bodiroga, who all captured Euroleague titles with the Greens, but Panathinaikos had no mercy once the game got underway. Eleven different players scored between 5 and 11 points as part of a well-balanced team-effort that left Roma no chance. Roma led by 3 after 10 minutes, but the hosts controlled the middle two-periods 44-22 to take control. Panathinaikos now leads Group G, while Roma fell to last place at 0-3. The two teams meet again in the Italian capital in two weeks. Vassilis Spanoulis and Drew Nicholas led the winners with 11 points each, Mika Batiste added 10 and Antonis Fotsis, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Nikoa Katzivrettas all scored 9. Saras also dished 5 assists. Andre Hutson, Rodrigo De la Fuente and Brandon Jennings had 11 apiece in defeat while Ibby Jaaber contributed 10.
The hosts got on the scoreboard first behind a jumper by Dimitris Diamantidis. However, soon Lottomatica Roma capitalized on a couple of Panathinaikos turnovers to rush ahead 2-4. Drew Nicholas responded with a smooth triple, but Hutson followed with a layup before Nikola Pekovic sank a pair of free throws to put the hosts in front, 7-6. Fotsis stripped Becirovic and punished Roma on the fast break, but Hutson was effective in the paint and with 3 points from the charity stripe tied the game at 11. Panathinaikos was unable to contain Jaaber, who knocked down jumpers from inside and beyond the arc to give Roma a 13-16 advantage. Coach Zeljko Obradovic inserted Batiste, who immediately made his presence felt in the paint, but Roma’s Luigi Datome unleashed a triple from downtown, good for a 17-21 lead. Despite a three-pointer by Dusan Kecman and the boisterous crowd, Roma remained in charge, mainly thanks to its ability to score in transition, and held a 22-25 edge after 10 minutes of up-tempo basketball.
Primoz Brezec opened the second quarter with a basket, but Diamantidis and Jasikevicius unleashed three-pointers to quickly regain the lead for the Greens. After a two-minute span full of missed slam dunks and three-point bricks by both teams, Jaaber made a free-throws to end the drought. Once again though, the tandem of Diamantidis and Jasikevicius stepped up to boost the margin to 32-28. Suddenly Roma looked rather nervous at the offensive end, failing to score some easy baskets, but it managed to stay close on Panathinaikos’s heels behind its energetic defense that produced back-to-back steals –10 after 16 minutes of play. Out of a Panathinaikos timeout, Diamantidis threw a laser pass to Batiste, then Stratos Perperoglou found Fotsis who slammed it home and finally Nicholas buried a triple from deep to extend the lead to 42-34. Nonetheless, Roberto Gabini scored a wild triple too and with the clock ticking down, Rodrigo De La Fuente closed the gap to 44-39 at halftime.
Panathinaikos came out for the second half determined to clamp down on defense and break the game open. Behind free throws by Pekovic and a put back layup by Fotsis, the hosts stretched the lead to 52-43. Roma missed 6 shots in one possession and coach Gentile was forced to call timeout in order to regroup his forces. However, Perperoglou thought otherwise and drove to the basket to finish with a thunderous one-handed dunk that forged a double-digit advantage. Rookie Jennings failed to hit an open triple and at the other end Spanoulis knocked down 3 free throws as Panathinaikos pulled away 57-43. When Becirovic made 2 free throws with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter, they were Roma’s first points after six barren minutes and the lead had soared to 61-45. And as though this wasn’t enough, Hatzivrettas’s triple and Spanoulis’s jumper sandwiched De La Fuente’s lay-up to give the Greens a 66-47 cushion with one period left.
De La Fuente connected on a three-pointer early in the final quarter, only to be bettered by Hatzivrettas and Perperoglou who each made a triple to build a 74-54 margin. An airball by Datome and the subsequent triple by Hatzivrettas indicated that the Greens were no match for Roma. Jennings buried a three-pointer and Datome scored off an offensive rebound in an attempt to trim the lead. However, despite the fact that Panathinaikos stepped off the gas in the final minutes, the hosts marched to a well-deserved 92-67 victory, with Kecman putting his stamp with a highlight reel buzzer-beating triple.
Thursday, February 12, 2009