|Laboral Kutxa stuns Panathinaikos in Athens
Laboral Kutxa Vitoria used a big third quarter to build a 15-point lead, then held on to beat Panathinaikos Athens 61-68 in the Greek capital on Friday night. The win snapped Laboral’s 7-game losing streak, improving it to 2-7 in Top 16 Group E and keeping its slim playoff hopes alive. Panathinaikos has dropped five out of its last six games, and has 4-5 for a share of fourth place in the standings. Laboral led 27-28 at halftime after neither team held more than a 4-point lead in the first half, but its offense flourished in the third quarter. Led by Andres Nocioni and Tibor Pleiss, the visitors scored 27 points in the third quarter, opening up a double-digit lead. The margin was extended to 46-61 early in the fourth before the Greens rallied. However, Laboral prevailed for its first win over Panathinaikos in Athens in almost 8 years. Nocioni paced the winners with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. Pleiss scored 12, while Fabien Causeur and Thomas Heurtel netted 9 apiece in victory. Dimitris Diamantidis led Panathinaikos with 15 points, Zach Wright scored 12 and Michael Bramos finished with 10 in defeat.
First quarter: Teams trade leads as Nocioni scores 10
Roko Ukic opened the scoring with a floater for Panathinaikos before Nocioni hit a wide-open three for the visitors. Ukic delivered again, cutting through the paint for an easy layup, and after Heurtel answered with a fastbreak layup, Diamantidis got a lucky roll on a triple to put the Greens ahead 7-5. Nocioni drove for a layup on the other end, and after Diamantidis hit again from downtown for the Greens, a dunk from Pleiss and a floater from Heurtel put Laboral back in front, 10-11. Bramos opened his tally with a put-back for the hosts, but Nocioni sank another three-pointer to keep Laboral up. That only lasted until a baseline jumper from Antonis Fotsis tied it 14-14. The teams traded baskets in the last 2 minutes of the quarter – Causeur and Nocioni scoring from close range for Laboral, while Wright drove for a pair of layups for Panathinaikos - to leave the scoreboard even, 18-18, after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Laboral, one step ahead in defensive battle
Fotsis had a put-back and David Jelinek raced for a fastbreak layup for the first points for their teams in the second quarter. Adam Hanga hit a pair of free throws to put Laboral up 20-23 as the game lost some of its rhythm due to personal fouls and turnovers, while both teams kept their focus on the defensive end. Stephane Lasme ended the scoring drought with a layup, but Jelinek again raced the length of the floor, this time finishing with a dunk. Lasme answered with his own slam at the other end, but Jelinek was on a roll and again drove for a layup at 24-27. In the final minute of the quarter, Diamantidis hit 3 of 4 free throws to cut the difference, but Heurtel got a freebie of his own to leave Laboral in front, 27-28 at halftime.
Third quarter: Laboral finds offense, pulls away with a big run
Pleiss and James Gist traded monster dunks to start the third quarter, and Pleiss followed with another one to make it 29-32. After Wright scored a layup, Pleiss assisted Causeur for a triple, but Gist answered with a layup in traffic and a fast break dunk to tie the game at 35-35. Nocioni scored a tip-in to put Laboral back in front and after Pleiss scored a layup-plus-foul, Nocioni buried his third triple for an 8-point edge. After a timeout, Bramos hit a three for the hosts, but Causeur scored a tough layup before Fernando San Emeterio sank a three-pointer and Pleiss added a layup that made it 38-50. Jonas Maciulis and Bramos hit back-to-back from downtown to snap a 3-15 run and quickly halve the deficit, but San Emeterio hit from long range again and Causeur drove for another layup to give Laboral a 44-55 lead.
Fourth quarter: Visitors hold off late rally
Hanga hit a floater to open a 13-point margin at the start of the fourth quarter. Wright drove for a layup, but Giuseppe Poeta hit a baseline jumper before driving for a layup that made it 46-61. The hosts’ head coach Argiris Pedoulakis called a timeout, and Panathinaikos stepped it up on defense. After Diamantidis and Bramos each scored a pair of free throws, Pleiss fouled out and Maciulis scored a layup to get within 8. San Emeterio hit a short jumper to snap Laboral’s scoring drought, and Heurtel hit 2 free throws to make it a 12-point game. However, Wright drove to the hoop, and Diamantidis scored a layup-plus-free throw to close within 58-65 with 90 seconds remaining. Wright made a steal and raced for a layup, then a steal from Maciulis and a technical on Nocioni for flopping led to Diamantidis making a free throw to get as close as 61-65. The hosts had possession to edge even closer, but Leo Mainoldi stole the ball on the other end, and Heurtel sank both free throws 20 second before the end, sealing the outcome.
Friday, March 7, 2014