Injury-riddled Panathinaikos found tough sledding in the final game of the regular season before using its experience to pull out a 64-67 road win over EWE Baskets Oldenburg on Wednesday. The game did not ultimately affect the standings as Panathinaikos improved to 8-2 and was tied for the Group D lead with Real Madrid, but finished second due to having lost both their games. Oldenburg finished last at 1-9, but having won its only game in the season opener on the road, spent the last night trying to give the home fans a thrill. The hosts led 62-60 with under 5 minutes left, but the Panathinaikos defense made sure of the victory down the stretch. Mike Batiste led the winners with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Drew Nicholas followed him with 14 points, including 4 three-pointers. Nick Calathes added 10 for the Greens, including some key plays late. For Oldenburg, Ricky Paulding shook off early missed to hit 4 of 10 triples on the way to 19 points. Je'Kel Foster added 15 for the hosts, while Milan Majstorovic scored 12 points and pulled 9 rebounds. Panathinaikos was playing without injured big guns Nikola Pekovic, Dimitris Diamantidis and Vassilis Spanoulis, while Oldenburg was missing key player Jasmin Perkovic.
Panathinaikos went directly to Batiste in the post for the game's first basket. Oldenburg got on the board when Majstorovic finished a fastbreak, but Batiste answered with a jump-hook in the lane. No one scored for a while after that, sending a signal about a defensive-minded first half. After Antonis Fotsis put back an offensive rebound, he fed Batiste for another score at 2-8. After a timeout, Nicholas found Fotsis alone for a big triple to make it 2-11, which looked like handwriting on the wall considering the pre-game positions of these teams. After a pair of free throws by Paulding, Nicholas drained his own triple at 4-14 as the Panathinaikos defense seemed to stop everyone except Majstorovic, who now went baseline for a dunk. After a steal, however, Foster joined him with a jumper from the wing, but Georgi Shermadini answered for the Greens by finishing a pick-.and -roll. When Calathes fed Milenko Tepic for a fastbreak layup the visitors were ahead by double, 10-20 after 10 minutes.
A couple of scoreless minutes passed in the second quarter before Josh Carter rattled in an extra-deep triple that pleased the Oldenburg crowd. It continued to be all about defense, but now as much Oldenburg's as that of its more famous guests. Calathes and Carter traded free throws before Panathinaikos went back to Batiste for its first basket of the quarter at 14-23. Ruben Boumtje-Boutmje got a free throw and a dunk for Oldenburg at 17-23, but Greens answerd with Batiste inside again. Pualding got a three-pointer to fall at 20-27, but quick as that, Calathes scored on driving layup-plus-free throw to restore an eight-point margin, 20-28. Free throws were traded until Foster's triple pushed Oldenburg as close as 24-30, but just as quickly, Nicholas responded from the same distance to lead Panathinaikos into halftime with a 25-33 advantage.
When Nicholas started the second half booming in a three-pointer, Panathinaikos had a double-digit lead again that Stratos Perperoglou liked enough to add to it from downtown at 26-39. Oldenburg decided to try that strategy as first Majstorovic and then Paulding buried long balls to suddenly make it 37-41. Again, the answer was swift from the Greens, with Nicholas firing in a jumper. But this time, Paulding was just as quick to answer, again from long range. Panathinaikos needed a timeout, but when Majstorovic rebounded and passed long to Paulding for a layup, the hosts were within 42-43. Again, Nicholas wasn't about to give up the lead. His next shot from long-range went down with a swish before free throws by Batiste put up a 42-48 score. But Oldenburg wasn't flinching. Foster appeared with a new three-pointer before a layup by Marko Scekic left a 49-50 score after 30 minutes.
The Oldenburg fans hit the roof as Carter opened the fourth quarter firing their team in front, 52-50, from long distance. The Greens answered with free throws by Batiste and a go-ahead layup by Tepic, but the battle had already been joined. Soon, Scekic hit one game-tying basket and fed Majstorovic to dunk for another at 56-56. Tepic kept Panathinaikos ahead at the foul line, and when Foster tied again with a layup, Calathes came through with the keep-ahead drive for the Greens. It was now 58-60, with 5 minutes left. After a timeout, Majstorovic tied it up again at the foul line, then a three-point miss by Panathinaikos sent Foster for a go-ahead layup at 62-60 with just over 3 minutes left. Who else but Batiste answered with a jumper and a defensive rebound good for a foul shot to take the lead back at 62-63. Jason Gardner missed his eight triple without a make, the rebound of which Fotsis parlayed into 2 more free throws and a 62-65 scoreboard. When Oldenburg missed and lost the rebound again, Sarunas Jasikevicius made a pull-up jumper in the lane, allowing Panathinaikos to mop up a tough last regular season victory and look forward to the Top 16.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010