Panathinaikos moved a step closer to clinching first place in Group C by pasting Chorale Roanne 102-78 at the Athens Indoor Olympic Hall on Thursday night. Kostas Tsartsaris led the way with 19 points and Dimitrios Diamantidis had another solid all-around performance with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots for the reigning champs. The Greens' fourth straight win improved their record to 11-1, leaving them one more victory or a Real Madrid loss from clinching first place in the group. Roanne dropped its fourth decision in a row to slip to 3-9 as their Top 16 hopes suffered a critical blow. Panathinaikos took care of business early, outscoring Roanne 29-15 in the opening quarter. The lead was only 15 at halftime, but the Greens soared to 75-51 at the end of the third quarter to seal the win early. It was a mild performance after Panathinaikos blasted Roanne 83-123 when they met earlier in the season. Nikos Hatzvirettas added a season-high 16 for the Greens, Demos Dikoudis scored 11 and Sarunas Jasikevicius 10. The Euroleague’s leading scorer, Marc Salyers, netted 27 for Roanne, Brion Rush added 15 and Ron Hale had 11 in defeat.
Panathinaikos got Tsartsaris involved early, and it paid off as the skilled forward contributed 6 points to a quick 9-2 lead. Soon, Salyers got himself into rhythm and scored back-to-back baskets to trim the difference to 14-8. However, Jasikevicius teamed up with Tsartsaris to embark on a three-point party, including a pair of triples for the Lithuanian, to open a near-decisive 27-8 gap thanks to a 13-0 run. The Greens had hit 5 of 5 three-point tries until then. Diamantidis was running the show, involving his teammates, while on the other end Roanne was struggling big time to find its way to the basket. Finally, Hale ended a three-minute dry spell -Panathinaikos having lost for a while its composure on defense- to help the guests pull within 27-15 after one quarter of play.
Adam Hess tried to ignite a comeback run with a two-handed dunk on the break, but Panathinaikos retorted with a 9-0 spurt and a 36-17 lead thanks to a triple by captain Fragiskos Alvertis and 4 points in the paint by Dikoudis. Roanne head coach Jean-Denys Choulet ordered a zone defense and, as his players picked up their defensive intensity, the hosts hit a wall offensively. Meanwhile, Rush picked up the scoring slack and knocked down jumpers inside and behind the arc to pull Roanne within 40-30. It wasn't long before the Panathinaikos bench players took over, however. Hatzivrettas scored a pair of free throws and an open triple, while Sani Becirovic followed with his first three-pointer of the night. As a result, the Greens headed to the locker room with a 52-37 lead on the board.
Entering the second half, Panathinaikos remained clearly in charge. Winston Kennedy finished a highlight reel fast-break and then Diamantidis nailed a triple to boost the margin to 59-41. Rush did not surrender though and stepped up with 5 points to trim the lead to 61-46, yet the hosts came up with another 9-0 run to put any hopes of a Roanne comeback out of reach. Hess loaded his three-point pistol, but still, at the end of the third quarter, the guests could not get closer than 75-51.
The momentum did not change in the final quarter of the game, as Panathinaikos dominated the battle of the benches behind Stratos Perperoglou and Hatzivrettas. Salyers and Rush - Roanne's focal points on offense throughout the game - kept the scoreboard rolling, however the Greens did not step off the gas until the waning minutes of the game. Therefore, in honour of its 100-year jubilee, Panathinaikos opted for closing the game with a three-digit score of 102-78, courtesy of a triple by Vassilis Spanoulis.
Thursday, January 17, 2008