Panathinaikos reached the halfway point in Group F with its perfect record intact after holding off upset-minded Prokom Trefl 69-75 on Wednesday night in Sopot, Poland. The hosts lead early and stayed within the game until the closing minutes, but Sani Becirovic and Mike Batiste scored 6 apiece during a late 2-12 run to put the game away. Panathinaikos now has a foot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a 3-0 record and could lead by as many as two wins over the rest of the group if Efes Pilsen tops Winterthur FC Barcelona on Thursday. Prokom dropped to 1-2, but still has two more home games remaining. Becirovic led all scorers with 18 points and 6 assists, while Batiste turned in a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. Nikos Hatzivrettas was perfect from the field on the way to 14 points and Ramunas Siskauskas posted 11. Donatas Slanina led Prokom with 15 points and 4 assists, Michael Andersen recorded 12 points and 9 rebounds and Rashid Atkins contributed 11 points and 5 steals.
Andersen picked up where he left off last week, opening the scoring for Prokom with a three-point play. Dejan Tomasevic corrected Siskauskas's miss for Panathinaikos's first points and moments later the Greens' had their first lead as Becirovic's three-pointer made it 3-5. However Prokom was waiting to pounce. Jasmin Hukic tied the score with a layup, Andersen netted a short jumper, Slanina buried a triple and Tomas Masiulis capped a 9-0 run that gave the hosts a surprisingly big early lead. After Siskauskas scored, back-to-back baskets by Atkins and Masiulis put Prokom up 16-7. But just as quickly as Prokom built the lead is as quickly as it fell apart. Missed shots doomed the Polish champs as Siskauskas's triple was followed by one from Kostas Tsartsaris. Then Hatzivrettas scored his first points and Tsartsaris ended the first period with a bucket that returned the lead to the visitors, 16-17.
The second period got off to a frantic start as triples were pouring in and the lead changed hands on the first four possessions of the quarter. Christian Dalmau tied the score at 23-23 from the line and then he swapped points with Batiste to make it 25-25 midway through the period. Panathinaikos started to look for the threes a bit too often and while the Greens were coming up empty, Atkins scored 4 straight points and Slanina added a jumper for a 31-25 Prokom lead. Hatzivrettas finally found the outside touch and Tomasevic then cut the gap to 3 from the line. But with time running down and halftime approaching, Slanina fired in a clutch three that gave the hosts a 36-30 halftime lead.
Becirovic started the second half with a three and Hatzivrettas soared in for a layup to bring Panathinaikos within 1. Andersen rescued Prokom with a layup and free throws that sandwiched a Becirovic layup. Slanina's next basket put the hosts up by 5 again, but Becirovic and Siskauskas were set to take care off that. The duo combined for 8 points during a 0-9 spurt that put Panathinaikos back in control. Hukic scored a layup, but Dimitrios Diamantidis bettered him with a three-point bomb for his first points. Batiste added two from the line to complete a 2-14 run, but Prokom didn't cave in. Filip Dylewicz sparked his side with a slam and after Fragiskos Alvertis and Siskauskas missed from downtown, Atkins added a layup to end the third period with Prokom back in the picture at 48-51.
Atkins kept the Prokom momentum going with a triple to start the fourth quarter. Tomasevic went inside where he drew a foul and sank one from the charity stripe. The same trick resulted in a layup a minute later, but Huseyin Besok's slam made it 53-54. Slanina put Prokom back on top with a layup, but Alvertis brought all his experience to the table with a triple and a jumper to make it 55-59. Dylewicz took his turn in the sun with and dunk and a free throw. After Siskauskas made a pair from the line, Dylewicz drilled a triple to tie the game at 61-61. But a determined Becirovic scored, dished to Batiste and then netted a pair of free throws to push the visitors in front 62-67. While Prokom started to panic and miss-fire on offense, Batiste stepped up with a layup and then a slam to put Panathinaikos up 8 with 2 minutes to go. Becirovic stretched the Greens' lead to 10 for the first time all night. Andersen completed a three-point play and Slanina drilled a triple as Prokom tried to get back, but it was too little, too late as Panathinaikos held on for a 69-75 victory.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007