Montepaschi Siena climbed to the top spot in Top 16 Group D by downing Partizan Igokea 71-54 at home on Thursday in a record-breaking defensive performance. Montepaschi ties with Efes Pilsen for first place at 1-0, setting a do-or-die showdown for the top spot in Istanbul, Turkey next week. Meanwhile, Panathinaikos and Partizan tie for third place at 0-1 and are ready to face each other in Athens, Greece, next Wednesday. Montepaschi broke its own Euroleague record for most steals in one game by collecting as many as 29 tonight. The team also had the previous record by collecting 26 in a regular season home win against Buducnost on February 13, 2003. Ksistof Lavrinovic paced the winners with 18 points. Romain Sato added 15, Vlado Ilievski had 11, Shaun Stonerook got 10 while Bootsy Thornton collected 8 steals for Montepaschi. Nikola Pekovic led Partizan with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Outstanding defense and an inspired Stonerook allowed Montepaschi to get a 16-9 lead after 10 minutes. Partizan had committed 9 turnovers already, but managed to get Pekovic and Milt Palacio involved to get within 33-27 at halftime. Sato and McIntyre shined after the break to boost the hosts' lead to 48-36 after 30 minutes. Partizan only managed to trade baskets for a while, but a layup-plus-foul by Lavrinovic allowed Montepaschi to seal the outcome, 58-41, midway through the fourth quarter.
Dusan Kecman got Partizan going with a baseline jumper, as Montepaschi struggled to find easy shots in the opening 2 minutes. Pekovic shined with a two-handed dunk for a 0-4 Partizan lead. Stonerook stepped up with his trademark three-pointer from the top of the key, as Partizan switched from man-to-man to zone defense in the opening possessions. Terrell McIntyre fed Ben Eze for an easy layup while Sato added a fast break basket to give Montepaschi its first lead, 7-5. The hosts excelled in defense now, collecting steals all over the place. Meanwhile, Stonerook fired in his second bomb from downtown that capped a 10-1 run for a 10-5 Montepaschi lead, making Partizan call a much-needed timeout. Slavko Vranes stepped up with an easy layup while Milenko Tepic added an acrobatic basket to brought Partizan back to life, 10-9. Sato shined with a long two-pointer, as Partizan kept committing too many turnovers - as many as 9 in the opening quarter. Thornton found his first points on a close basket and soon added a six-meter jumper for a 16-9 Montepaschi margin after 10 minutes.
Montepaschi tried Lavrinovic on Pekovic and managed to open the court in offense, too, as he buried a three-pointer for a 19-9 lead. The hosts stayed very aggressive in defense, with Stonerook taking over with steals and blocks. Meanwhile, Lavrinovic capped an 11-0 run that gave Montepaschi a 21-9 margin. Uros Tripkovic nailed a triple that Novica Velickovic followed with a fast break dunk to make Montepaschi call timeout at 21-14. Ilievski shined with a bomb from downtown but Pekovic answered with a put-back layup to keep Partizan within 24-16. Ilievski kept pacing Montepaschi with free throws, as Partizan kept struggling to get open looks. Kecman made foul shots that Sato erased with a five-meter jumper. Pekovic scored again in the paint while Palacio added a fast break layup to keep Partizan in the game, 29-22. Montepaschi kept going to the foul line often, however, as Sato followed free throws with a jumper. Palacio found another fast break layup while Pekovic added a basket-plus-foul to get Partizan within 33-27 at halftime.
Just like at the beginning of the game, Kecman was the first to score in the third quarter on a driving layup, as Partizan had improved its defense to match Montepaschi's aggressivity. The hosts did not panic, however, as McIntyre fed Stonerook for a layup in transition. Kecman scored again in penetration to get Partizan within 35-31. Thronton took over with a fallaway floating jumper, as Stonerook stayed as the hosts' key piece in defense. McIntyre founs his first points on a seven-meter bomb to take Montepaschi stay out of trouble, 40-31. Sato joined the three-point shootout to make Partizan call a much-needed timeout at 43-31. Pekovic tried to change things with a power layup but he didn't find much help around. Both teams went scoreless for 2 minutes, trading missed shot and turnovers until Eze made a free throw. Lavrinovic fired in a corner three-pointer but Tripkovic answered from downtown or a 47-36 Partizan deficit. Another free throw by Eze gave Montepaschi a 48-36 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Pekovic tried to ignit the guests' comeback with a jump hook but Lavrinovic took revenge with a bomb from downtown. McIntyre soon added a fast break layup for a 15-point Montepaschi lead at 53-38. Partizan tried quick shots without any success and soon entered the foul bonus. Tripkovic stepped up with a corner triple but his team needed much more than that. Meanwhile, Montepaschi had opted to use long possessions to run down the clock. Meanwhile, Thornton made a free throw while Lavrinovic added an acrobatic three-point play that sealed the outcome, 58-41, midway through the fourth quarter. Both teams fought now for points differential, a crucial factor in the Top 16. Cedomir Vitkovac followed a layup with 1-for-2 free throws but Montepaschi stayed focused. Stonerook shined with an uncontested layup that Ilievski followed with free throws for a 62-45 Montepaschi lead. Everything was said and done, as Montepaschi added a big win that came with a Euroleague steals record while Partizan needs to improve right away to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Thursday, February 14, 2008