Partizan Belgrade battled back from a 23-point deficit to beat Armani Jeans Milano 81-76 for its second straight win at a sold-out Pionir Arena in the Serbian capital. Novica Velickovic led six Partizan scorers in double figures with 14 points as hard work and the team concept lifted head coach Dusko Vujosevic’s men. Jobey Thomas was brilliant for Armani Jeans with 27 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting, but it would not be enough as Milano slipped to 0-3 in Group D. And it won’t get much easier with a trip to Real Madrid on tap next week. The visitors dominated early, using a 2-12 first-period charge and a 3-12 second-period run to build a stunning 22-45 lead. Zarko Rakocevic helped Partizan cut the deficit to 38-55 by halftime. The hosts mounted their comeback in the third period as Stephane Lasme and Velickovic worked hard at both ends of the floor. Lasme gave Partizan its first lead since the opening minutes early in the fourth quarter. Milano seemed to run out of strength down the stretch, while Partizan looked fresh and big plays by Tepic and Velickovic gave the hosts an important and hard-fought win. Lasme recorded a double double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Aleksandar Rasic scored 12 and dished 7 assists, while Milenko Tepic scored 11 and dished 8 assists. Cedomir Vitkovac also scored 11 points and Rakocevic finished with 10 for the winners. David Hawkins added 14 points and 4 steals and Joey Beard netted 10 points for Milano.
Rasic opened the scoring with a bomb and after Joey Beard got the visitors on the scoreboard, Novica Velickovic added a second triple. Hawkins answered from behind the arc for Milano and soon Yohann Sangare added layup to give Armani Jeans a 6-7 lead. Partizan answered with 5 straight points from Vitkovac. The hosts then switched to a zone defense with big Slavko Vranes in the paint only to see Thomas lead Armani Jeans on a 0-7 run, which gave his team an 11-16 lead. Milano surprised the hosts with their transition game and high intensity defense. Hawkins controlled his team’s attack and Thomas fired in long-distance shots and fast break baskets as Milano built a double digit lead after just eight minutes. Thomas scored one more triple as the first period buzzer sounded, concluding a 2-12 run and giving his team a 15-28 lead.
Thomas opened second period with another bomb as the gap reached 16 points. Marco Mordente joined with a three-pointer and when Hawkins scored twice from the line, Milano led 19-38 midway through the second period. And the margin would grow to 23 after a Mike Hall triple ended a 3-12 run that made it 22-45. Partizan was forced to call timeout and the result was triple from Tepic. Partizan missed 4 consecutive shots from the line, but thanks to offensive rebounds, Rakocevic dunked as Thomas committed his third foul. Rakocevic added a three-point play, but after Armani Jeans stole the ball, the first half ended with 38-55 Milano lead.
Partizan scored 5 straight points at the beginning of the third period as the Milano players let up a bit on defense due to foul trouble. The visitors went scoreless for almost four minutes as Partizan slowly cut into the deficit. Finally Beard scored, but Rasic answered with triple cutting the gap to 11. Rasic added a basket on a fast break and the score was 50-59. He led Partizan on a 9-2 run, which ended with three-pointer from Petar Bozic that made it 55-61. Lasme showed power by blocking Hall on defense and slamming one home on offense. Armani Jeans was losing its force as the hosts got within 61-64. Uros Tripkovic tied the game with a triple, but Hall struck with his own bomb as Milano led 66-67 at the end of third period.
After Lasme and Vranes together blocked Beard, Lasme scored to give the hosts their first lead since the opening minutes. Mordente tied from long distance but missed. Thomas scored a bomb from second chance offense, but on the other side Lasme forced Beard into his fifth personal just three minutes into the fourth quarter. Mindaugas Katelynas added a triple for Armani Jeans as the guests reestablished a 5-point lead. Both teams concentrated on defense and baskets were rare at both ends. With four minutes to go, Velickovic scored a bomb and tied it at 73-73. He added a steal and assist to Vitkovac, who gave Partizan a 2-point lead. Velickovic added a fastbreak layup that forced Milano’s bench to call timeout after a 9-0 run. With offensive rebounds, Partizan was keeping the lead, aided by its fans who fired up the arena. Hawkins took the responsibility with three-point play, but Tepic answered from the line and the score was 79 -76 at the beginning of final minute of the game. Bozic picked up a key steal in defense and Velickovic converted 2 from the line as Partizan earned its second straight Euroleague win.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008