Panathinaikos took care of business on Thursday evening at OAKA, dealing Armani Jeans Milano an 80-68 defeat. With yet another convincing home win, the defending Euroleague champions remain tied atop Group D with a 5-1 record. The Greens face a tough test when they visit third placed BC Khimki next week. Meanwhile Milano fell to 1-5 and will host German champion EWE Baskets Oldenburg in Week 7. Panathinaikos won the first meeting with Milano in Week 1 by pulling away in the fourth quarter, but this game was decided much earlier as the hosts simply dominated all the way with great balance between post and perimeter players and suffocating man-to-man defense. Panathinaikos won the battle of the boards 33-27 and the Greens’ ball movement led to 69% shooting from inside the arc. But Milano never gave up. Down by 15 going into the fourth quarter, head coach Piero Bucchi’s men rolled off a 0-9 run to cut the lead to just 6 before Mike Batiste and Nikola Pekovic took control once again for Panathinaikos. Pekovic led the way with 16 points for the winners. Batiste seconded his partner inside with 12 points off the bench while Stratos Perperoglou added 11 more. Sarunas Jasikevicius returned to the court for the first time this Euroleague season and showed he has not lost step by scoring 4 points and dishing out 3 assists in 14 minutes on the court. Jonas Maciulis paced Milano with 17 points and 4 rebounds and Mike Hall added 10 points and 5 boards in the losing effort.
Antonis Fotsis opened the scoring with a pair of free throws and on the very next possession Pekovic passed from the high post to an open Fotsis on the baseline for an easy bucket. Perperoglou drained a three from the wing and the home team was quickly up 7-0. Stefano Mancinelli tried to jumpstart the sluggish Armani Jeans attack with a three from the top of the arc, but Pekovic earned a trip to the line where he made both free throws. Panathinaikos got into the bonus at the 6:16 mark, and Pekovic tossed in 2 more from the foul line. Marco Mordente weaved his way in for a short jumper, but Fotsis found Pekovic, who had perfect position under the glass, for a layup. Jeff Viggiano came off the bench and nailed a three from the corner for Milano. Joey Beard blocked a shot by Batiste, but next trip down Batiste took him outside and swished a jumper. Panathinaikos went ahead 19-8 on a deep jumper by Drew Nicholas. Viggiano nailed his second three from the left side, but Batiste converted a 2-plus-1 as the Greens spread the floor and let him work on Hall alone in the low blocks. Jasikevicius took the court for the first time this season and did not take long to make his presence felt. The star point guard pulled in an offensive board and whipped a no-look pass to Kostas Tsartsaris for a dunk and on the next play Jasikevicius found Milenko Tepic open on the wing for a three to end the quarter 27-12.
Tsartsaris made a layup to open the second period. Maciulis hit a pair of free throws for the visitors, but Jasikevicius showed there was no rust on his wheels by hitting a long jumper. Maciulis and Hall hit back-to-back threes and Massimo Bulleri added 2 foul shots to cap a 0-8 run to get the deficit down to 31-21. Batiste answered with a half hook, Fotsis made a put back and Giorgi Shermadini gave the home side a 37-23 lead on a field goal. Perperoglou made an excellent block of a breakaway dunk attempt by Viggiano, but Finley drove hard and banked home a short floater. Nicholas hit right back with a three-pointer. The Panathinaikos defense kept forcing Milano into tough perimeter shots, but fortunately for the visitors Hall slammed home a missed three by Finley. Hall hit again inside and Mordente hit a three to cut the lead to 12 points before Fotsis scored inside. Mason Rocca made a pair of free throws and Armani Jeans went into the half down 44-32.
Milano turned up the defense coming out of the locker room but missed some easy shots and could not cut further into the Panathinaikos lead. Pekovic went 1-of-2 from the foul line before Maciulis finally got a layup to fall. Again Pekovic got deep position and converted a 2-plus-1, and Perperoglou added a turnaround jumper in the lane to put Panathinaikos ahead by 16. Hall checked in and made an impact on defense, drawing an offensive foul on Pekovic and blocking a shot by Vassilis Spanoulis, but the Panathinaikos point guard would come back to score 5 free throws with Diamantidis adding one more to give the Greens a 56-36 advantage. Mordente finally got a three to fall, and Hall made a great tip in off the glass. Batiste, too strong, powered his way in for a layup, and Spanoulis fed a trailing Fotsis for an easy 2 points. Batiste attacked the basket and was rewarded with 2 foul shots that he promptly sank. Bulleri matched him with 2 of his own, but Jasikevicius showed some quickness getting to the glass for a layup. Hall did what he could, drilling a three-pointer, but Panathinaikos went into the final period enjoying a 63-48 advantage.
Milano began the fourth quarter playing hard defense, but this time the visitors were able to capitalize on their defensive stops as Rocca made back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to 13 points and force Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic to call for time. The stoppage of play did not help his team as Maciulis nailed a three and after a turnover by Jasikevicius, the Milano forward added a breakaway dunk to get the lead down to 63-57 and breath life back into the game. Batiste stepped up and hit a big outside jumper to cut the 0-9 Milano run. Panathinaikos settled down on defense and put the game to sleep. Pekovic added a pair of free throws to get the lead back to 10 points. Spanoulis made 2 more foul shots before Maciulis scored a layup. Perperoglou hit a jumper and Spanoulis swished a big three to push the lead back to 74-61. Finley hit back with a triple from the top of the key, but Perperoglou drove in for pretty layup and Panathinaikos coasted to a comfortable 80-69 win.
Thursday, December 3, 2009