Panathinaikos is the 2006-07 Euroleague champion!
The Greens defeated defending champion CSKA Moscow 93-91 in a thrilling final at Athens Olympic Indoor Hall (OAKA) in the Greek capital on Sunday to take their first title in five years. In front of a very green sold-out crowd, Panathinaikos captain Fragiskos Alvertis raised the new Euroleague Basketball trophy as the proud club celebrated its fourth Euroleague title – the most of any team in the Final Four era. Final Four MVP Dimitris Diamantidis scored 15 points and displayed the needed leadership to take his team to glory. Diamantidis was one of six Panathinaikos players to score in double figures. Ramunas Siskauskas, who tied a Euroleague final game record with 12 free throws made and set another with 17 attempted, shined with 20 points and 5 assists, Dejan Tomasevic added 16, Mike Batiste and Milos Vujanic had 12 each and Nikos Hatzivrettas posted 10. Despite a game widely expected to be a defensive struggle, the final resulted in a high-scoring thriller that went to the very end. Records were set by Panathinaikos for most free throws made (38) and attempted (46) in a final. The greens also matched a final record for most points scored in the second quarter with 28. The title gives coach Zeljko Obradovic his record sixth Euroleague title, while Alvertis joins six other players on the all-time list with four Euroleague crowns. Meanwhile, CSKA fell short in its bid to become the second straight team to win back-to-back titles. Newly crowned Euroleague MVP Theodoros Papaloukas did his best to carry the outgoing champs, scoring a career-high 23 points on 9-of-10 from the field to go with 8 assists, but it wasn't enough. Matjaz Smodis finished with 18 points and Trajan Langdon, who was instrumental in CSKA's late rally with 11 fourth-quarter points, wound up with 16. J.R. Holden added 11.
CSKA won the opening tip, but committed a turnover in its first possession, which allowed Sani Becirovic to open the scoring for Panathinaikos by hitting a five-meter shot at the other end. CSKA needed almost 2 minutes to score, but a three-pointer by J.R. Holden gave his team a 2-3 lead. Becirovic buried another mid-range shot, while CSKA tried to get Aleksey Savrasenko involved due to his size advantage over Batiste. It was Batiste, however, who scored down low, while another CSKA turnover caused coach Ettore Messina to call timeout down 6-3. Oscar Torres collected back-to-back steals, but CSKA was having severe problems scoring. Papaloukas came off the bench and was guarded by Siskauskas, while Diamantidis took care of Langdon. Siskauskas made free throws, but Torres answered from downtown to cut the CSKA deficit to 8-6 midway through the opening period. Diamantidis fed Hatzivrettas in the corner for a triple, but Papaloukas found Thomas Van den Spiegel for a two-handed dunk. Diamantidis fired one in from downtown and added another layup, good for a 16-8 Panathinaikos lead. Smodis made the most of Panathinaikos's defensive mismatches and hit 4 free throws, but Batiste sank a fall-away jumper to keep the Greens in charge, 18-12. A five-meter jumper by Langdon and a huge three-point play by Papaloukas got CSKA within 18-17 at the end of an intense first quarter.
CSKA tried its best scoring lineup now, with Smodis and David Andersen around the baskets. Siskauskas hit a left-handed driving layup, but Smodis matched that with a jump hook over Fragiskos Alvertis. The defensive intensity was off the charts, but that changed Tomasevic scored down low to get his 1,000th point in Euroleague Basketball. Papaloukas and an outstanding Diamantidis traded layups, too, but Smodis dunked it to keep CSKA within 1. Tomasevic answered the same way before a long jumper by Holden saw Panathinaikos call timeout at 26-25. Diamantidis hit free throws and headed to the bench for the first time tonight. Papaloukas shined with a turnaround jumper in the lane, but Hatzivrettas followed a triple with free throws to get the Green majority in the stands going, 33-27. Savrasenko hit a jump hook and soon added a dunk, as Messina opted to use Anton Ponkrashov on Siskauskas. Vujanic came in off the bench and fired in a three-pointer as CSKA entered the foul bonus and took a timeout. Vujanic gave the Greens their biggest lead yet by calmly sinking 4 free throws to make it 42-32. CSKA simply could not beat the Greens' matchup man-to-man defense, even missing a few open shots before Andersen made a short jumper. Batiste provided a highlight with an alley-oop slam and Siskauskas scored in penetration to make it a 12-point game. A double technical foul on Diamantidis and Smodis allowed the latter to make free throws and fix the halftime score at 46-36.
Just like at the start of the game, CSKA committed a quick turnover right after stepping on court, but its defense dramatically improved when it mattered. Smodis and Torres hit free throws to get the then-reigning Euroleague champions within 46-40. Siskauskas was next on the foul line to make 1-of-2, but his team entered the foul bonus with 8 minutes to go in the period. On the other end, Langdon drilled a triple and Papaloukas added a reverse layup to force Panathinaikos to call timeout with only a 2-point lead. Panathinaikos continued to struggle and it was all Papaloukas now. He ran the court to find an easy layup that capped a 1-13 run and tied it at 47-47. Vujanic made 3 more free throws but Papaloukas fed Torres for an easy basket and then drew an unsportsmanlike foul from Becirovic to give CSKA a 50-51 edge – its first lead since 2-3. The game had turned into a physical battle, just like CSKA wanted it, despite the Greens' bench depth. Demos Dikoudis and Van den Spiegel made foul shots to knot the score at 52-52. Then the Greens, who had been limited to just 4 points in 6 minutes, opted for a much-needed timeout. Dikoudis and Diamantidis made free throws, but Papaloukas kept pacing CSKA with another driving layup. Tomasevic scored around the basket and Diamantidis buried a key triple that gave the Greens some fresh air at 60-54. CSKA lost its momentum, while free throws by Torres, Tomasevic, Hatzivrettas and Andersen fixed the score at 65-57 after three quarters.
Van den Spiegel had a big block on Tomasevic early in the fourth quarter, showing that CSKA's defense would take no prisoners from now on. He shined with a three-point play at the other end to bring CSKA within 65-60. But Smodis picked up his fourth foul with 9 minutes to go and CSKA lost control for half a minute, in which free throws by Becirovic and a power layup by Tomasevic made it a 9-point game, 69-60. Langdon stepped up with an off-balanced three-point play, but an outstanding Tomasevic scored again in the low post. Papaloukas stepped up and took over with an incredible left-handed layup. Both teams had already entered the foul bonus with 7 minutes to go. Papaloukas made a free throw, but Siskauskas beat the shot-clock buzzer with an easy layup. An unstoppable Papaloukas singlehandedly kept CSKA in the game, this time with a three-point play to get within 73-69. Siskauskas made 3 more free throws as CSKA faced severe foul problems with Smodis, Van den Spiegel and Langdon with 4 apiece. Batiste opted to take Smodis one-on-one and scored twice again him, making it six Panathinaikos players in double digits already. Holden buried a shot, but Tomasevic answered with a three-point play that broke the game open at 83-73 with less than 4 minutes to go. Batiste "scored" for CSKA while trying to sweep a missed free throw by Van den Spiegel and then Smodis hit a triple from its favorite spot at the top of the key to give his team some hope. Diamantidis made a foul shot and so did Holden to get CSKA within 84-79 with 1:52 to go. Siskauskas almost sealed the outcome with a three-point play, but Langdon came to CSKA's rescue with back-to-back triples that got CSKA within 87-85 with 51.3 seconds remaining. Batiste stepped up with a turnaround jumper with 34.5 seconds to go and Langdon went to the well one too mnay times at the other end. But Smodis grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 from the line with 22 seconds remaining, 89-86. CSKA opted to foul on Vujanic immediately and his free throws set a new record for most free throws made and attempted in an Euroleague final and put his team up 91-86. CSKA ran out of time, and a sea of Green fan in the stands celebrated that Panathinaikos had won its fourth Euroleague title in one of the best games ever seen in European basketball!
Sunday, May 6, 2007