Panathinaikos has stepped strong into the 2001-02 Euroleague, not only protecting its home in the season opener, but doing it with certain dominance against a dangerous Group C opponent. The Greens didn't mess around Wednesday and came down on visiting Skipper Fortitudo Bologna with a solid 81-70 victory. In front of a crowd of only 3,000 fans, the Greens were led by "usual suspect" Dejan Bodiroga with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Darryl Middleton (12 points) and surprising (both in defense and offense) Corey Albano (12) and (reserve point guard) Yannis Sioutis didn?t allow to the Italians to escape with the victory, that they didn't deserve with such a performance.
Gregor Fucka, who would finish as top scorer with 19 points, tallied 7 in the first five minutes and gave Skipper a 7-11 lead, but Zeljko Obradovic had the proper answer. He called Darryl Middleton from the bench, replacing Papadopoulos and because of that Panathinaikos found the defensive spirit, that was needed to take advantage of its fast break potential and scoring options. With a continuous rotation between man-to-man and zone defense, the Greens managed to make a 13-2 run in less than three minutes, and they got off to a 7-point lead, 20-13. By that time, Kinder guard John Celestand had committed his third personal foul and Panathinaikos concluded the first period ahead 20-14.
Outstanding defense with a lot of inside trapping gave Panathinaikos the opportunity to open the tempo and the margin, as well, to 29-18, on a three-pointer of John Rogers and two Middleton free throws early in the second quarter. As Middleton and Kutluay committed their third fouls each, however, Fucka returned to his scoring (29-24), but Panathinaikos didn' t face any problem. Yannis Sioutis answered with a three-pointer that shot the lead to 9 points, at 33-24. Skipper's percentage was down from the field (10 for 35) and the line (7 of 15) and they couldn't stop Bodiroga as the lead soared to 44-30 at halftime.
The third quarter started with three-pointers by Rogers and Damir Mulaomerovis, good for a 49-31 that should have ended the drama. But Skipper is not lacking in heart nor character. Fucka and Meneghin, who woke up with 9 points in the quarter, led a 13-2 run, cutting the margin to 51-44. Meneghin hit a three-pointerthat brought Skipper within 6, at 56-50, but Bodiroga answered in kind for a 61-52 lead. At the end of third period, Panathinaikos was leading by 63-57 and the game seemed still open.
Panathinaikos brought out its top guns now: Bodiroga, Mulaomerovic and Kutluay, who had yet to hit a shot. The score remained at 67-59 for four minutes, but Sioutis bumped it back up to double figures, 69-59, with four minutes left. Albano was locking down Fucka, but he surprised everyone by scoring 10 golden points in the quarter, putting Panathinaikos safely in front by 76-64. Celestand's first basket, a three-pointer, came one minute before the end, but Skipper had already lost Basile, Evtimov, Meneghin and Galanda to fouls. The game belonged to the Greens.
Thursday, October 11, 2001