Panathinaikos second-half rally stops ALBA in Berlin
A defensive battle that led to wide swings ended with Panathinaikos Athens holding onto a 59-65 comeback road win over ALBA Berlin in the German capital on Friday. Panathinaikos raised its Group E record to 4-2 and now holds third place exclusively. ALBA fell to 3-3 and shares fourth place with FC Barcelona. ALBA led 41-31 midway through the third quarter but scored only free throws for the next 10 minutes as Panathinaikos used a 4-20 run to eventually take its own double-digit lead, 50-61 on back-to-back corner three-pointers by Antonis Fotsis. ALBA rallied behind 6 points from Alex Renfroe to within 59-62 heading into the final minute, but couldn't complete its own comeback try. Loukas Mavrokefalidis led the winners with 11 points, while Dimitris Diamantidis and Vlantimir Giankovits had 10 each. Alba, which had a 23-11 rebounding advantage in the first half but only 38-29 at game's end, got 11 points each from Reggie Redding and Jamel McLean, 10 from Renfroe.
First quarter: Defenses force low-scoring tie
A second-chance triple knocked down by Cliff Hammonds opened the scoring. Lefteris Bochoridis marked his second start with a three-pointer of his own to tie it up for Panathinaikos, 3-3. The Greens suffered a setback as two quick fouls sent James Gist to the bench. Defenses dominated as neither team could find the basket for more than 3 minutes until Esteban Batista bulled inside for a jump hook to put the visitors ahead 3-5. Giankovits kept the beat by driving from the arc for a high-flying dunk that Marko Banic answered with a jumper at 5-7. Giankovits followed with a free throw and Diamantidis with 2 of 3 to raise the difference to 5-10. Renfroe stole an offensive rebound that resulted in another basket from Banic and then Redding pumped in a triple for a 10-10 tie. McLean worked hard for an inside basket and made the accompanying free throw as ALBA surged in front. But A.J. Slaughter came off the Panathinaikos bench with 10 seconds left and beat the buzzer over a pair of defenders to forge a 13-13 tie after one quarter.
Second quarter: Offensive rebounds propel ALBA
DeMarcus Nelson entered for the second quarter and gave the lead back to Panathinaikos with a runner. Renfroe matched it by driving from the corner for a dunk. Points came hard until Akeem Vargas swished a second-chance jumper at 17-15. Jonathan Tabu slalomed through traffic for ALBA to get his first basket of the season after a long injury, but Nelson went coast to coast to keep Panathinaikos within 19-17. Redding beat the shot clock with a step-back jumper and then drove through the defense for a layup and ALBA's biggest lead yet, 23-17. Nelson's free throw meant he was his team's only scorer through 6 minutes until Janis Blums downed 2 free throws to make it 23-20. ALBA's ninth offensive rebound already let Niels Giffey raise the difference, as did Leon Radosevic with an acrobatic layup that forced a Panathinaikos timeout at 27-20. Radosevic put back ALBA's next offensive rebound and Batista responded with free throws for Panathinaikos, but the Greens could get no closer than 29-22 at the half.
Third quarter: Mavrokefalidis, Diamantidis spark comeback
A pair of rare second chances for Panathinaikos paid off with Diamantidis making a three-pointer and Batista a layup to get the visitors as close as 29-27 right after the break. Radosevic answered with a three-point play and a block before feeding McLean for a huge dunk at 34-27. Tabu passed over the entire defense to McLean for a fastbreak layup that Giankovitz matched with a nifty finger-roll. McLean's free throws were answered by a reverse by Fotsis but then Alex King drained a three-pointer for ALBA's first double-digit lead, 41-31. Despite a Panathinaikos timeout, ALBA's defense held the Greens scoreless for 3 minutes before Loukas Mavrokefalidis scored twice in a row, lowering the difference to 42-35. Out of an ALBA timeout, Gist made an open-court steal and blasted a fastbreak dunk as the hosts now struggled to put together clean shots. Banic ended ALBA's drought with free throws made possible by an offensive rebound, but when Diamantidis rifled in another triple, it was suddenly a four-point game, 44-40. Mavrokefalidis kept it going by nailing a three-pointer before Giankovits did the honor of tying the score from the free-throw line as the third quarter ended 45-45.
Fourth quarter: Gist and Fotsis shut the door on ALBA
Gist split free throws then stole at one end and finished the break at the other to start the fourth quarter. When Diamantidis passed cross-court to Giankovits for a three-pointer, Panathinaikos was ahead 45-51 after a 4-20 run covering 6 minutes. Redding got a free throw to fall, but Mavrokefalidis finished a break by putting back his own miss as the Panathinaikos run continued. Radosevic finally scored ALBA's first field goal in more than 10 minutes on a basket inside, but Mavrokefalidis matched it with a jumper. Renfroe downed a two-pointer for ABLA but after his 2 offensive rebounds on the same play, Fotsis drilled a triple from the corner to make it 50-58. Out of a timeout, Fotsis went to the other corner and did it again for his team's first double-digit lead, 50-61 with 3 minutes left. Redding found a three-pointer in transition, and after a Panathinaikos timeout, fed Renfroe for a layup. They teamed up to force a turnover from Mavrokefalidis, who was called for an unsportsmanlike foul as Renfroe made both free throws to cut the difference to 57-61 with 2 minutes left. Nelson hit 1 of 2 free throws for the visitors before Renfroe drained both of his to make it 59-62 going into the final minute. A missed three-pointer and turnover by Redding after that let Fotsis and Diamantidis to make sure at the foul line of taking the victory back to Athens.
Friday, February 6, 2015