Unicaja came through with a big win, while ruining Panathinaikos's bid for a perfect regular season on Wednesday at the Martin Carpena Arena in Malaga, Spain. The hosts used an 8-0 run in the closing minutes to pull away for a 67-61 win. The victory improved Unicaja's record to 5-7 in Group B and catapulted coach Sergio Scariolo's side back into the hunt for a ticket to the Top 16. Panathinaikos lost for the first time all season. The Greens are 23-0 over the last two years during the regular season against teams not named Unicaja, but just 1-3 against the Spanish champs. With star power forward Mike Batiste still sidelined with a calf problem, Panathinaikos had no answer inside for Unicaja center Daniel Santiago, who finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 10 fouls drawn. Carlos Jimenez added 10 points and 7 boards, while Berni Rodriguez scored 7 of his 10 points in the closing minutes. Rodriguez also picked up 4 steals. Dimitrios Diamantidis led Panathinaikos with 12 points and Demos Dikoudis posted 10 points and 8 rebounds. The game was close from start to finish and defined at times by sloppy play as Unicaja turned the ball over 18 times and Panathinaikos 14. The hosts were an apalling 15-of-27 from the line (55.5%) and the visitors were even worse at 6-of-15 (40%). The game got off to a slow start, but Diamantidis took control towards the end of the opening period for a 5-point Panathinaikos advantage. Santiago quickly erased that in the second period and as Unicaja grabbed the momentum and earned a 34-30 halftime lead. Tony Delk kept Panathinaikos in the picture and the scre was tied at 46-46 after 30 minutes. The game seemed destined to go down to the final shot, however just as Rodriguez took over to push Unicaja ahead, the visitors came up empty and watched in shock as Santiago and co. sealed the win.
Panathinaikos won the opening tip, but it took over a minute-and-a-half until Dejan Tomasevic fed Kostas Tsartsaris for the game's first basket. Unicaja looked confused on the offensive end, but kept it close thanks to strong defense. After nearly 3 minutes, Jimenez got Unicaja's first and the game's second basket. Things started to pick up as Rodriguez scored in transition for the hosts and Ramunas Siskauskas dunked for the Greens, but sloppy played ensued with each team committing a turnover on the next possession. A Jiri Welsch jumper was matched by Tomasevic inside as the scoreboard showed 6-6 after 6 minutes. Ignacio DeMiguel and Tomasevic traded baskets before Jimenez's three-point play. However Tomasevic and Tsartsaris kept it close with their strong play in the paint. Back-to-back Diamantidis layups put Panathinaikos up 13-16 as the visitors continued to capitalize on Unicaja turnovers. Robertas Javtokas came off the bench for a slam, but was posterized by Santiago who spun past and dunked on the Panathinaikos big man to make it 15-18 after 10 minutes.
Unicaja sent the ball into an open Santiago for an east two at the start of the second period. The Unicaja center made an impact on defense as well, intimidating Dikoudis into a bad shot and creating a fast-break for Jiri Welsch, who was fouled, but missed both free throws. Dikoudis scored in transition, but Santiago continued to control the paint on both ends. Kostas Vasileiadis tied the game at 22-22 from the line and Santiago, who exchanged words with Dikoudis after the latter's hard foul, put Unicaja on top from the line. Santiago drew another foul from Dikoudis and made a free throw to cap a 7-0 run to put Unicaja ahead by 4. After a pair of Milos Vujanic free throws, Vasileiadis gave Unicaja its biggest lead yet with three-pointer, causing Panathinaikos to take a timeout trailing 29-24. Dikoudis and Diamantidis brought the visitors within 1, but Pepe Sanchez scored and then set Marko Tusek up for a three-point play before Dikoudis ended the half with an alley-oop dunk from Siskauskas to make it 34-30 at halftime.
Tsartsaris drew first blood in the second half, but Jimenez answered quickly. The swarming Panathinaikos defense frustrated Unicaja, even forcing a 5-second inbounds violation at one point. A series of pretty passes between Tsartsaris and Tomasevic led to a dunk for the latter that knotted the score at 36-36, however Jimenez scored three the hard way at the other end. Delk kept the visitors close with a pull-up jumper midway through the period. Missed free throws by Santiago and Welsch prevented Unicaja from increasing the lead and allowed Delk to swing the lead back to the Greens with a short jumper. Another spin move from Santiago tied the score at 42-42 before Dusan Sakota scored his first points and Panathinaikos's first three-pointer of the night. Carlos Cabezas came through with his first points of the night, making a pair of free throws to tie the game at 46-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
The tension grew as the fourth quarter got underway. Siskauskas made a free throw and then a jumper on Panathinaikos's first two possessions, but Sanchez erased that with a triple. Tusek put Unicaja up on the offensive glass, but Dikoudis answered with a put-back and after Sanchez's missed three, Diamantidis made it 51-53 with a wild runner. Sanchez delivered again from downtown to restore a home-team lead. Unicaja showed a zone defense, which seemed to confuse the Greens, while Santiago went over everyone for a bucket on the other end. The teams continued to swap shots, with Rodriguez matching Diamantidis's triple for a 59-56 lead with just over 3 minutes to go. Nikos Hatzivrettas's first basket helped Panathinaikos within 1, but Rodriguez continued his clutch play with a drive to the hole for 2 with 2 minutes remaining. Santiago corrected a Sanchez miss for a 5-point lead. A Tusek steal led to a Rodriguez basket to put Unicaja up 65-58 as the fans started to smell a big upset. Santiago would add one more hoop as Panathinaikos seemed to give up in the closing seconds, while Unicaja celebrated a crucial win.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007