Panathinaikos moved within one win of returning to the Final Four for the first time since winning the Euroleague in 2007 when it defeated Montepaschi Siena 53-72 on Tuesday in Italy to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series. Game 4 is back in Siena on Thursday, with the Greens aiming to clinch a ticket to Berlin. Panathinaikos started the second period with 10 unanswered points and later reeled off 14 in a row to take a 26-39 halftime lead. Montepaschi's offense remained cold after the break and Panathinaikos piled on its lead till it peaked at 28 early in the fourth quarter. The key for the visitors was rebounding as they dominated the glass 27-46 including 13 offensive rebounds. The loss snapped a 14-game home-court winning streak for Montpeaschi, which hadn’t lost at home since December 2007. Vassilis Spanoulis paced Panathinaikos with 13 points and 4 assists. Drew Nicholas also scored 13, while Nikola Pekovic netted 11, Sarunas Jasikevicius 10 and Kostas Tsartsaris produced 8 points and 10 rebounds. Terrell McIntyre led Montepaschi with 13 points, Henry Domercant scored 12 and Rimas Kaukenas 10.
The home fans made their presence felt with a barrage of papers on the court that delayed the game for several seconds after the opening tip. Both teams missed before Mike Batiste’s mid-range jumper got Panathinaikos on the scoreboard. Shaun Stonerook answered right away for Montepaschi from downtown. Tough defenses kept the score low, even though the game was played at a high pace. The duo of Spanoulis and Batiste pushed the Greens ahead, first with a pick-and-roll that resulted in a Batiste slam and then after Batiste’s rebound led to Spanoulis going coast to coast to make it 7-10. Soon McIntyre fed Ben Eze for a slam for the hosts, but a Spanoulis triple made it 9-15 and caused Montepaschi head coach Simone Pianigiani to use a timeout. Montepaschi sent Domercant into the game and his three narrowed the gap to 1 before Kaukenas corrected McIntyre’s missed layup to put the hosts ahead 16-15 after 10 minutes.
Antonis Fotsis put the visitors back on top with a triple to start the second quarter and Nicholas soon extended the cushion to 7 with a layup and a three. Jasikevicius hit a pull-up jumper to extend the Greens’ run to 0-10 before Morris Finley ended Montepaschi’s three-and-a-half minute scoring drought from the line. But Domercant fired in a three in transition and then hit twice from the line as Montepaschi stormed right back. Stratos Perperoglou kept Panathinaikos ahead with a three and Pekovic’s dunk made it 23-30. Fotsis followed with a long three that put the Greens up 10. Dimitris Diamantidis slashed by the Montepaschi defense for a layup and Spanoulis did the same. Pekovic scored in the paint to conclude a run of 14 unanswered points that made it 23-39. McIntyre connected on a three, but it was only enough to narrow the gap to 26-39 at halftime.
Montepaschi’s offense remained cold after the break and second chance baskets by Spanoulis and Tsartsaris made things even worse for the hosts. Spanoulis added 2 from the line to increase the lead to 19. Finley finally scored for Montepaschi, but it was an uphill battle for the locals. Panathinaikos continued to dominate the glass, crating extra chances that the team converted into more points. Kaukenas scored from the line and Finley made Montepaschi’s first field goal of the half after nearly five minutes. The impact was minimal, however, as Jasikevicius made a three to put Panathinaikos up 20. Domercant and Jasikevicius swapped free throws before Spanoulis and Diamantidis fed Pekovic inside on successive possessions to end the third period with a 37-60 advantage.
Spanoulis and Pekovic added baskets as Panathinaikos looked to put the game out of reach. Domercant hit twice from the line only to see Saras fire in a three that made it 39-67. Free throws by Kaukenas and a three from McIntyre didn’t threaten the visitors, who enjoyed the closing minutes as they cruised to a big win and a 2-1 series advantage.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009