Panathinaikos took the penultimate step toward its dream of playing the Final Four at home when it overwhelmed visiting Dynamo Moscow 80-58 in their first Quarterfinal Playoffs game on Tuesday at Athens Olympic Indoor Arena (OAKA) in the Greek capital. One more victory in their best-of-three series would put the Greens in the Final Four, to be played May 4 to 6 at OAKA. Game 2 comes on Thursday in Moscow and a third game, if necessary, would be a week later back in Athens. Panathinaikos got a big boost early from a player returning early from injury, swingman Ramunas Siskauskas, and never looked back on the way to victory. Sani Becirovic paced the winners with 17 points, while Siskauskas finished with 16 and Mike Batiste 10. The Greens outrebounded Dynamo 34-24, too. Panathinaikos rode 10 first-quarter points from Siskauskas to double-digit leads that it never saw threatened the rest of the way. Dynamo was clearly hurt by foul trouble to Lazaros Papadopoulos, who single-handedly put his team ahead 2-5 after the tipoff but finished playing just 16 minutes and scoring 7 points. Meanwhile, his Dynamo teammates made just 2 of 16 three-point tries on the night. Obinna Ekezie led the guests with 15 points, while Taquan Dean added 14.
Dynamo got on the scoreboard first as Papadopoulos grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a jumper by Dimitri Domani. There followed a series of empty possessions until Panathinaikos tied 2-2 on a drive by Sani Becirovic. Dynamo again fed the ball inside to Papadopoulos, whose three-point play put the guests in front, 2-5. The Greens replied stronger now, with a 6-0 blast based on 4 points by Batiste and a layup by Dimitris Diamantidis. Worse still for Dynamo was that Papadopulos headed to the bench with two personal fouls, which meant that another of the guests needed to pick up the scoring slack for Dynamo. That didn't happen, but on the Panathinaikos side, Siskauskas heated up quickly in his early return from an injury. He knocked down a triple to boost the margin to 13-7, while Dynamo continued having trouble scoring against the typical swarming defense of the Greens. Fotsis tried to change that with free throws, but Dynamo was held without a field goal for more than 7 minutes. Siskauskas took over then, rattling off 7 straight points to lead Panathinaikos to an emphatic 23-11 advantage after one quarter.
As the second quarter got underway, Siskauskas punished Dynamo's zone defense with his third triple of the game, while Papadopoulos committed an offensive charging foul that forced him out of the game again. Dynamo was vulnerable defensively and soon Panathinaikos galloped to a 32-15 lead midway through the quarter with Dimos Dikoudis, Nikos Hatzivrettas and Dejan Tomasevic all hitting baskets. Dynamo was again struggling for points, as over a period of 6 minutes, Obinna Ekezie was its only scorer, as his 7 points got the guests within 35-19. Panathinaikos was scoring in bunches, however, as Dikoudis showed his versatility with a triple and a dunk that made it 40-21. Ekezie kept his own scoring burst going for Dynamo, but Panathinaikos remained in charge as time ticked away toward the break with Diamantidis unleashing a last triple, good for a resounding 46-27 lead at intermission for the hosts.
The second half started with an air ball by Sergey Monia, another bad sign for Dynamo, which needed all the extra scorers it could identify. Fotsis was not willing to go down without a fight and emphatically rejected Robertas Javtokas in an attempt to awaken his teammates. And so he did, as Taquan Dean and then Bojan Popovic pulled Dynamo as close as 49-34. Papadopoulos, who was facing double- and triple-teams all night, then managed to get to the foul line and cap a 0-7 run for the guests. Panathinaikos steadied itself quickly, however, as Batiste was brought in from the bench and soon finished a fastbreak to restore a 54-36 advantage for the Greens. Halfway through the third quarter, after a Dynamo timeout, Panathinaikos kicked into turbo gear and with Batiste as its go-to-guy burst ahead 63-38 after 30 minutes.
The final quarter opened with Panathinaikos attacking at full speed and consecutive baskets by Becirovic putting any hopes of a Dynamo comeback out of reach. Behind a triple by Milos Vujanic, the Greens breezed to a 72-44 lead. As a result the rest of the game turned into a practice with both teams embarking on a more up-tempo style of play, the starters resting on the bench and the coaches making their plans for Thursday’s second game in Moscow.
Tuesday, April 3, 2007