A favorite to go far in the Euroleague this season pulled off a show-stopping comeback in the opening game as Panathinaikos rallied from 24 points down in the first half to defeat DKV Joventut 79-82 on Tuesday in Badalona, Spain. The Greens got their first lead of the game in the next-to-last minute after having trailed late in the first half trailed by 48-24. The second half was a lot different, but not until a three-pointer by Dimitris Diamantidis bounced high and fell in with 1 minute, 20 seconds left did the Greens have their first lead, 75-76. Diamantidis then made a steal and hit a key free throw down the stretch to help seal the victory. Panathinaikos goes to 1-0 in Group B while Joventut starts 0-1. The historic Palau Olimpic was electric from the opening tip of the season as Joventut blasted off for huge first-half leads, but Panathinaikos comeback proved one of the biggest in Euroleague history. Mike Batiste led the winners with 23 points, while Dimitris Diamantidis added 17, Tony Delk 13 and Dejan Tomasevic 11. For Joventut, Elmer Bennett poured in 21 points, Andrew Betts 15 and Rudy Fernandez 14.
Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic got a standing ovation from Joventut fans who remembered him leading their club to the 1994 Euroleague title, but before long, his old team made his night difficult. Bennett scored the first points in the 2006-07 Euroleague on a three-pointer from the top of the circle before Andrew Betts added a reverse layup for a 5-0 Joventut lead. The Greens got on the board when Diamantidis found space for a driving layup. Bennett answered from downtown and Mike Batiste scored in the paint for the visitors. Lubos Barton hit a low-post jump hook then Bennett fed Charles Gaines for an alley-oop dunk that forced Panathinaikos to call timeout at 12-4. Ricky Rubio entered for the hosts, becoing the first Euroleague player born in the 1990s, while the Greens tried to slow the tempo and attack the basket. Free throws by Kostas Tsartsaris and Diamantidis ignited a 0-5 run that Nikos Hatzivrettas capped with a fast break dunk, but Rubio stepped up with an alley-oop layup for a 14-9 Joventut lead. Batiste and Betts exchanged layups before Tony Delk brought the guests within 16-13. Fernandez buried his first three-pointer for Joventut, Batiste answered with free throws, but Robert Archibald bettered him with a basket-plus-free throw. Fernandez scored on a backdoor pass from Archibald that Tomasevic erased with a close basket. A three-point play by Ferran Laviña and free throws by Tomasevic fixed the score at 27-20 after 10 minutes, by which time 19 players had already been on the court.
Diamantidis stepped up with an electric driving layup to start the second quarter while Rubio showed his defensive skills by drawing a charge on Delk. That allowed Archibald to work his way in the paint for an easy basket which Betts followed with a short jumper for a 31-22 Joventut lead. Barton had a monster block on Diamantidis and then matched Tomasevic's tip-in with a power layup. By the time Betts scored again in the paint, Joventut had an 11-point lead, 35-24, after 14 minutes. Bennett picked up his third foul and returned to the bench but Joventut really focused now, especially on defense. Betts kept pacing the hosts with a third-chance layup while Marcelinho Huertas hit a running jumper to make the Greens call timeout at 39-24. Joventut kept rolling, however, as Paco Vazquez's seven-meter bomb and Barton's follow-up layup made it a 20-point game, 44-24. Betts sank another jump hook, as Panathinaikos went scoreless for a fifth consecutive minute with 4 missed free throws in a row. Huertas made 2 from the line to cap a 19-0 Joventut run that doubles the Greens on the scoreboard, 48-24. Sani Becirovic finally hit a triple and Batiste beat the buzzer with another from downtown to bring Panathinaikos within 48-30 at halftime.
Gaines stayed active early in the second half with a power layup but Batiste bettered him with a fallaway jumper and the free throw that came with it. Fernandez shined with a catch-and-shoot triple but the Greens were a different team now. Diamantidis scored around the basket while Batiste sank a jumper to make it 53-37. Joventut could not find the basket and Bennett returned to court to solve his team's problems. Delk fired one corner triple to get the Greens even closer, and even after Bennett stepped up with an acrobatic jumper, Delk hit one from the other corner to pull Panathinaikos within 55-43. After a Joventut timeout, Tomasevic kept the Greens going with a basket to close a 2-12 run. Fernandez came to the rescue with his third three-pointer but Delk - who else? - answered from downtown for Panathinaikos and Becirovic hit a technical free throw to bring the Greens within single digits, 58-49. Bennett shined with a long jumper but Diamantidis answered with an outstanding layup-plus-free throw. Joventut did not panic, however, as Archibald hit a jumper and Bennett made free throws for a 64-54 Joventut lead after three quarters.
Joventut needed to keep full control of the game early in the opening period. Bennett followed free throws with a big three-pointer to restore a 15-point Joventut margin, 69-54. Batiste kept pacing Panathinaikos with a three-point play, as Joventut used a small lineup with Barton at power forward. Betts hit another jump hook - his first points in this half - which Diamantidis matched with free throws. Joventut faced severe foul trouble when Bennett picked up his fourth foul with 7 minutes to go. Panathinaikos made the most out of it, as Batiste hit free throws while Delk grabbed a loose ball and scored inside to give the Greens some hope at 71-63. Panathinaikos was a different team in defense now while Tomasevic's three-point play got the guests back into the game, 71-66. Joventut had called a much-needed timeout but Becirovic nailed a triple for a 71-69 Panathinaikos deficit, after a 0-12 run. Betts hit a free throw but Hatzivrettas hit a jumper for a 72-71 edge with 3 minutes remaining. Bennett made 1 of 2 free throws for Joventut while a red hot Hatzivrettas tied the game, 73-73. Bennett hit a critical jumper already in the final 2 minutes but Diamantidis hit a big triple which went up, fell down and gave Panathinaikos its first lead of the night, 75-76. Joventut missed conseutive offenses already in the final minute, while Diamantidis hit 1 of 2 free throws with 17 seconds to go. Panathinaikos opted to foul on Betts, who missed twice from the free throw line while Batiste made both attempts to seal a big win in come-from-behind fashion!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006