Lonny Baxter muscled his way to a clutch basket on the offensive glass to lift Panionios On Telecoms to a 72-67 win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night. With the hosts up 68-66 and 20 second to go, Baxter grabbed his third offensive rebound of the game and put it in to expand the hosts’ lead to 4 points, which would be too much for the Serbian champs to overcome. The result sees both team tied for second place in Group D with Real Madrid and Efes Pilsen at 2-2. Panionios visits winless Armani Jeans Milano next week, while Partizan hosts Euroleague champion CSKA Moscow. Aaron Miles paced Panionios with 18 points and 4 assists. Branko Cvetkovic added 14 points, Baxter finished with 12 and Ioannis Kalampokis chipped in with 11 for Panionios. Milenko Tepic led Partizan with 19 points and 5 assists, Aleksandar Rasic netetd 12 and Uros Tripkovic and NovicaVelickovic scored 11 points apiece.
Both teams were committed to standing their ground on defense, preferring to foul rather than let the attackers anywhere near the basket. As a result, big men Velickovic and Baxter had to take a seat on the bench with foul trouble by the middle of the quarter. The hosts were the first to find their offensive rhythm, as Miles connected on a wide-open jumper and Cvetkovic nailed a three-pointer for a 12-7 lead. Neither team was able to hit anything from the field in the next few minutes, but Partizan managed to get closer after Stephane Lasme made 2 from the line to cut it to 13-10. But Panionios answered with a 6-0 run, started by another jumper from Miles and capped by his brilliant assist to Ivan Zoroski for an easy lay-up. Lasme rebounded a missed Partizan shot and put it in on the other end, but it didn't count as the buzzer sounded just a fraction of a second before, so the scoreboard showed 19-10 after the first 10 minutes.
Zoroski started the second quarter with an acrobatic layup for the hosts, while Lasme used his strength and arm length to overpower Panionios players inside. But the big man struggled at the line, making only 1 of 3 attempts. Meanwhile, Vasilios Xanthopoulos stole the ball and ran away for an easy basket. In fact, everything seemed to be going Panionios's way, as Cvetkovic made a tough triple from way beyond the arc, and the lead was up to 29-13 after a Goran Nikolic fade-away. Aleksandar Rasic finally hit Partizan's first three of the night to change the momentum and he needed only two minutes to add a layup and another three to push his team’s run to 0-10 and force Panionios coach Aleksandar Trifunovic to call a timeout. The visitors seemed determined and they added 6 more unanswered points to even the game at 29-29, before an exchange of scoring followed, as Tepic showed the way for Partizan and Kalampokis stepped up for Panionios. On the last possession of the half, Miles told everyone where to be, then drove past his defender and found an open Levon Kendall in the corner to make it 40-35 at the half.
Miles continued to dominate at the start of the second half, scoring 7 points to lead an 11-2 Panionios run to put the home team’s lead back at double digits, 51-37. But Partizan answered with a 2-10 run of their own, as Tepic found his shooting touch with 5 points in a row. However, the visitors would miss or turn the ball over during the last two-and-a-half minutes of the period, giving the hosts an excellent opportunity to take the game under control. And though Panionios also failed to convert on a number of opportunities, a dunk by Baxter fired up the home crowd and made it 56-47 with 10 minutes to go.
Xanthopoulos and Cedomir Vitkovac exchanged three-pointers at the start of the fourth quarter. Then the Partizan big men grabbed 2 offensive rebounds on the same possession to give Vitkovac a chance to make another jumper. Tripkovic and Velickovic nailed 2 more triples for the guests, while Baxter was a one-man offence for Panionios with a bucket and 2 free throws that kept his team ahead 63-58 with three-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. Kalampokis hit a three and 2 of 4 from the line to keep Partizan at a distance, but the guests managed to make it a 2-point game after Tripkovic nailed another downtown-bomb to cut it to 68-66. After a Panionios timeout, Tepic had a chance to even it, but couldn't deliver, while on the other end Baxter grabbed an offensive rebound to score the game's most important bucket. With only 16 second to go, Tripkovic went to the line, but split the free throws. Partizan was forced to foul Miles, who also split his shots from the line, but the hosts came away with an offensive rebound and Partizan ran out of time. An off-balance buzzer-beater triple from Velickovic didn't make any difference, as the home fans were celebrating
Thursday, November 13, 2008