Panathinaikos spanked Zalgiris 59-94
Panathinaikos locked at least second place in Group B and kept its chances to finish first by downing Zalgiris 59-94 in Kaunas, Lithuania on Wednesday. Panathinaikos improved to 6-2 in Group B and visits undefeated leader CSKA Moscow next week in a high-profile showdown. Zalgiris dropped to 2-6 and faces a critical game against Brose Baskets in Bamberg, Germany next week. Steven Smith and Nick Calathes paced the winners with 17 points apiece. Mike Batiste added 13 for Panathinaikos. Sonny Weems led Zalgiris with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Marko Popovic added 14 points for the hosts. Zalgiris led for the best part of the first quarter but a layup by Ian Vougioukas gave Panathinaikos a 14-15 lead after 10 minutes. Mantas Kalnietis took over with a driving basket early in the second quarter. Panathinaikos, however, held the hosts scoreless for 7 minutes, making Zalgiris miss 9 shots and pick up 6 turnovers. Meanwhile, Calathes, Batiste and Smith fueled a 1-24 run that broke the game open, 19-41, at halftime. Panathinaikos boosted its margin to 31-63 late in third quarter and never looked back.
Robertas Javtokas got Zalgiris going with a backdoor layup, as Panathinaikos missed 3 shots from downtown in the opening 2 minutes. Javtokas scored around the basket for a 4-0 Zalgiris lead. Panathinaikos went scoreless for more than 3 minutes until Smith and Romain Sato hit free throws for a 4-3 deficit. Popovic nailed an acrobatic jumper but a free throw by David Logan and a jump hook by Vougioukas tied it at 6-6. Popovic struck from downtown off a timeout and Paulius Jankunas took over with a second-chance layup that gave Zalgiris an 11-6 margin. Dimitris Diamantidis shined with a three-pointer and an uncontested dunk by Vougioukas tied the game again, 11-11. Popovic finished a long, three-chance Zalgiris offense with a wide open triple but a jumper by Calathes kept the Greens within 14-13. A put-back layup by Vougioukas made Panathinaikos get its first lead, 14-15, at the end of the first quarter.
Kalnietis scored in penetration early in the second quarter, as Panathinaikos tried Calathes and Sarunas Jasikevicius at both guards. Calathes shined with an off-balance driving basket and Jasikevicius fed Batiste for a three-point play that made the hosts call timeout at 16-20. Jasikevicius scored off a steal, as Zalgiris kept struggling to score. Smith took over with a fallaway jumper and Calathes added a fast break layup off a steal to force the hosts to stop the game again, 16-26. Diamantidis fed Calathes for a easy basket and a power layup by Smith broke the game open, 16-30. A red hot Smith struck from downtown to cap a mamooth 0-18 Panathinaikos run. Zalgiris had been scoreless for 7 minutes until Weems split free throws. Sato took over with a fast break dunk and Calathes fed Batiste behind the back for a fast break slam. Sato soon found an easy basket to make it a 22-point game, 17-39. Weems sank a mid-range jumper and Batiste hit his trademark jump hook to fix the halftime score at 19-41.
Smith struck from downtown immediately after the break and Javtokas scored down low to try to get Zalgiris going. Diamantidis sank a jumper, however, to keep Panathinaikos way ahead, 21-46. Jankunas buried a baseline jumper, as the Greens had started to miss open shots. Kalnietis shined with a driving layup but Batiste erased it with a power basket. Smith nailed another three-pointer and even when Kalnietis scored again, Zalgiris only managed to trade baskets now. Sato sank a jumper and Logan bettered Popovic's free throws with an uncontested triple. Panathinaikos had started to use long possessions to run the game clock down. A wild driving layup by Smith made the hosts call timeout at 29-58. Mindaugas Kuzminskas dunked it but Calathes answered from downtown and Logan added a reverse layup for a 32-point Panathinaikos lead, 31-63. A three-point play by Milovan Rakovic and back-to-back baskets by Weems got Zalgiris within 38-65 after 30 minutes.
Vougioukas shined with a put-back layup early in the fourth quarter but Weems improved that with a three-point play, as Zalgiris now tried to reduce its deficit once the outcome was clear. Popovic hit free throws and another layup-plus-foul by Weems brought the hosts within 46-67. Calathes scored twice in penetration but a driving layup by Kalnietis and alleyoop dunk by Javtokas kept Zalgiris within 50-71. Kostas Kaimakoglou and Jasikevicius shined with back-to-back driving layups and by the time Batiste took over with a reverse dunk, everything was said and done already. Panathinaikos had cruised to a big road win and set an interesting showdown against CSKA next week. Meanwhile, Zalgiris needs to bounce back right away and win its next two games against Brose Baskets and KK Zagreb CO to challenge for a Top 16 spot.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011