Panathinaikos advanced to the 2009 Euroleague Basketball Final Four on Thursday after beating Montepaschi Siena on the road to win their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series 3-1. The Greens will face their arch Greek League rival Olympiacos in the semifinal at the o2 Arena in Berlin on May 1. Panathinaikos opened a 12-point lead in the first quarter and pushed the gap to 13 points in the second quarter. But Terrell McIntyre's outside shooting helped Siena cut the margin to just 3 points at halftime. Panathinaikos pushed the lead back to 8 only to see Montepaschi use an 11-2 run to pull ahead 58-57. A 2-8 close to the quarter gave Panathinaikos a 5-point lead after three. Montepaschi trailed by 6 in the fourth, but Benjamin Eze and McIntyre spear-headed a 10-1 charge for a 72-69 lead. But a 3-16 Panathinaikos push finished off Siena for good. Drew Nicholas led six Panathinaikos scorers in double figures with 19 points. Mike Batiste added 15, Nikola Pekovic 14, Stratos Perperoglou 12, Sarunas Jasikevicius 10 and Vassilis Spanoulis shined with 11 points and a career-high 10 assists for the winners. McIntyre was the star for Montepaschi, but his career-high 35 points were not enough. Rimantas Kaukenas added 15 in defeat.
The game started with three straight turnovers before Spanoulis made 2 free throws to give Panathinaikos an early lead. Eze got the hosts on the board with an inside lay-in off a fine pass by Kaukenas. Perperoglou got open on the left wing for a three-pointer and Batiste's lay-up made it 2-7. Kaukenas hit a jumper and McIntyre converted a fast break layup after a turnover to pull Montepaschi within 6-7. Siena head coach Simone Pianigiani was then called for a technical foul arguing a foul called. And things could have been worse for the Italian champs as Spanoulis and Batiste combined for just 1 of 4 free throws. But Batiste hit a jumper on the ensuing possession for a 6-10 lead. After an Eze free throw, Perperglou scored back-to-back lay-ups after steals as Panathinaikos jumped ahead 7-14. Pianigiani ordered a timeout, but Panathinaikos came up with another break-away layup after a steal only to have Eze save the basket with a block. Shaun Stonerook's dunk as the trailer on the break was matched by Batiste's layup on the other end. But the referees whistled Batiste for a technical foul for throwing the ball at a Siena player after his score. McIntyre made both free throws to cut the margin to 11-16. But Nicholas knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to push the lead to 13-22. McIntyre answered with a three-ball from the top of the key, but Panathinaikos kept up the defensive pressure, blocking a Ksistof Lavrinovic shot that resulted in a layup for Dimitris Diamantidis for the first double-digit lead - 16-26. Spanoulis's jumper made it 16-28 before Lavrinovic's foul shots cut the gap to 18-28 after one period.
Antonis Fotsis was left alone in the paint as Panathinaikos scored first in the second quarter. McIntyre drained a triple from the left wing to keep Montepaschi in the game. But Nicholas's pull-up jumper in the lane pushed the lead to 13 points - 21-34, causing Pianigiani to call another timeout. McIntyre came back with a triple and then Lavrinovic put back an offensive rebound as Siena scored 6 straight points to cut the game to 27-34 and Panathinaikos boss Zeljko Obradovic wanted to talk about it. After the timeout, Nicholas hit his third triple to reestablish the 10-point lead. It was 10 points again after Spanoulis scored a driving layup and Batiste's jumper off the glass to make it 31-41. But Kaukenas converted a fast break layup and McIntyre drained another triple from the top of the key and the lead was just 36-41 as Obradovic again called for a timeout. Nicholas again answered the bell with a triple, but McIntyre bolted into the lane for a driving layup and Eze hit a left hook after Siena grabbed 2 offensive rebounds to make it 40-44. The Panathinaikos boss continued to try to stop the Siena surge with another timeout and Fotsis stepped out to the right wing for a triple to make it 40-47. Montepaschi would not let up, Lavrinovic laying in a nice pass from McIntyre and McIntyre making 2 foul shots to trim the margin to 44-47. After two straight 24-second violations for Panathinaikos, Montepaschi had a chance to go into the break deadlocked but McIntyre missed his three-point attempt and the guests led 44-47 at intermission.
After both teams struggled in the early going of the second half, Batiste's jumper on the left baseline opened the scoring in the second half. His free throw on the next possession made it 44-50. But McIntyre continued his fine long range shooting with a three-ball to make it 47-50. McIntyre threw the ball away and Nicholas dunked all alone on the break. Perperoglou then had his three-pointer go in, out and back in for a 47-55 advantage. Montepaschi failed to give up and Kaukenas banked in a jumper off the glass. After 2 Kaukenas free throws, McIntyre was fouled shooting a three-pointer and made all 3 foul shots to make it a one-point game 54-55. Eze missed 2 free throws and then Siena drew a charge, but could not inbound the ball and Pekovic was wide open for a layup to put Panathinaikos up 54-57. Stonerook put back his own miss and then stole a pass by Diamantidis and passed ahead to Kaukenas, who streaked in for the layup to push Montepaschi ahead 58-57. But Pekovic hit off the glass and converted the three-point play and Jasikevicius drained a triple form the right corner and the guests were up 58-63. Stonerook threw down a dunk after a McIntyre feed, but Pekovic put in a spinning lefty layup to give Panathinaikos a 60-65 advantage after three periods.
Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter until Morris Finley's jumper to cut it to 62-65. Pekovic fought off Eze and converted a three-point play for a 62-68 advantage. Montepaschi came back yet again with Eze dunking and completing a three-point play, Henry Domercant putting back an offensive rebound and Eze blocking Pekovic, which resulted in McIntyre draining a three-ball to complete a 10-1 rally and give the hosts a 72-69 lead. Panathinaikos somehow was able to yet again hit a three-ball after the timeout, Fotsis doing the deed this time to knot the game with the shot clock winding down. And that triple started a 3-16 surge that finished off Montepaschi for good. Nicholas nailed a three from the left corner and Spanoulis made 3 free throws after being fouled beyond the arc. Batiste threw down a dunk and Jasikevicius put the nail in the coffin with a long three-pointer late in the shot clock. Jasikivicius made 4 free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
Thursday, April 2, 2009