The regular season came to an end for two Top 16 qualifiers as visiting Panathinaikos rolled over Real Madrid 73-90 on Wednesday in Group C. It was an amazing long-range shooting night for the Greens, who made 13 of 24 three-pointers. They hit a total of 7 shots from deep in the first quarter alone to take leads that they did not give up the rest of the way. Panathinaikos finished the regular season a 12-2 record, tied with Unicaja for the best in the Euroleague. Since their tow losses came against Unicaja, however, the Greens finished second in Group C, but will join the group winners in the top level of the Top 16 Draw by virtue of having the best second-place record. Real Madrid ended with a 7-7 record and finished fourth in the group. Dusan Sakota led the winners with 17 points off the bench while making 5 of 5 triples. Vassilis Spanoulis and Mike Batiste added 13 pints each for Panathinaikos. For Real Madrid, Igor Rakocevic blasted 22 points behind 4 of 5 triples, and Mickael Gelabale added 16.
Venson Hamilton hit free throws off an offensive rebound to get things started for Madrid, but then the three-point shooting contest started in earnest. Kostas Tsartsaris hit the first for the Greens, Moustapha Sonko answered from the arc for Madrid, then Nikos Hatzivrettas did the same for Panathinaikos. Rakocevic picked up on the trend and doubled it with a pair of shots from downtown that gave Madrid an 11-8 lead. That's when Sakota jumped off the bench, and he did Rakocevic one better. His three in a row from the arc, back-back-to-back shots from the left side near the corner, propelled the visitors in front, 11-17. Rakocevic was not to be outdone, and hit another in response. Marko Tomas made the next long-range shot for Madrid, to which Sakota answered with his fourth to make it 17-21. There had only been three-pointers and free throws made in the game until then. Axel Hervelle made the first two-point shot for Madrid, but back to the arc went Jaka Lakovic to hit a couple in a row for the Greens, who led after a wild first quarter by 23-27.
Patrick Femerling of Panathinaikos, back after a 10-game injury absence, found space inside to give Panathinaikos its first double-digit lead, 25-35, early in the second quarter. Madrid simply found Gelabale open for one triple while Rakocevic added a new one for 33-37. But Panathinaikos played smart and fast, always getting close to the basket with small men like Dimitris Diamantidis or Spanoulis. Now Panathinaikos drove and looked for Batiste, who slammed with authority to maintain a save lead. Both sides traded baskets as Tomas's second triple for Madrid made it 40-45 but it looked like Panathinaikos was unstoppable inside the arc, too, as the visitors took a 40-49 lead to the break
Lakovic opened the second half with his third triple and Rakocevic soon found a reply to get Madrid going. But the Greens advanced through triples as Alvertis hit his team's third in 4 minutes to make it 44-60. In fact, Panathinaikos had shot 18 times from the arc, making 12, and only 16 times inside it until then. But it was not only an offensive show as the guests forced a new 24-second violation on Madrid shortly before Diamantidis fed Batiste for a reverse dunk and a 44-63 score. After several scoreless minutes, Tomas finally scored free throws for Madrid, but Batiste dominated the paint, and when he went to the bench, Alvertis and Diamantidis stepped up to give the guests a 48-72 lead after 30 minutes.
Three free throws by Rakocevic opened the last period, but things changed a lot. Without relaxing too much, Panathinaikos simply played its game to maintain the lead knowing it would be easy to pull the win. A triple by Gelabale was no threat as Femerling soon scored for the Greens to make it 55-76 score in minute 34. The game was stopped several times and the rhythm was lost. Sakota's layup made it 58-80 with 3 minutes to go. Madrid trimmed the deficit under the 20 points but Sakota hit his fifth triple without a miss to seal the deal as the regular season said goodbye in Madrid.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006