The teams with the best and worst records in the Euroleague showed how even they can be before Group C leader Panathinaikos escaped with a 93-94 road win against Partizan before 7,000 fans in Belgrade on Thursday. The Greens lifted their record to 10-1 while Partizan fell to 2-9, but for most of the night it was hard to tell which team was qualified for the Top 16 and which still fighting to survive. Indeed, except for a pair of missed free throws in the closing seconds and two failed shots on offensive rebounds in the final seconds, Partizan would have won. Instead, Jaka Lakovic led the winning side with 23 points, while Mike Batiste added 20, Vassilis Spanoulis 14 and Nikos Hatzivrettas 10. Partizan got 24 points from Uros Tripkovic, 23 from Dejan Milojevic, 17 from Luka Bogdanovic nd 10 from Kosta Perovic. Four of Partizan's players, including both point guards, Milojevic and Tripkovic fouled out before the decisive final minutes.
Kostas Tsartsaris opened the scoring with a three-pointer for the guests, then Milojevic scored layup for Partizan before Lakovic and Bogdanovic traded triples. Milojevic hit a jumper now for a 7-6 Partizan lead to a high-paced game already. Nikos Hatzivrettas hit from downtown and Batiste inside as the Greens surged ahead 7-11 lead. Offense was the name of the game, although Panathinaikos was double-teaming Milojevic. With 4 points from Perovic tied the score as Nenad Stefanovic entered for Partizan to try to stop Lakovic. Milojevic from the line gave Partizan a new lead, Batiste dunked to tie again, but Stefanovic and Tripkovic buried triples as the hosts led 22-19. Dusan Sakota fired a bomb in response, but Tripkovic kept the lead for Partizan until Spanoulis managed to get the last basket of the first quarter to fall for a 27-27 tie.
Newly-signed Aleksandar Smiljanic came on for Partizan in the second quarter, but Vlado Scepanovic and Spanoulis still got open for triples that moved the guests ahead 28-33. Tsartsaris contined scoring as the Greens reached a 1-12 run and a 28-39 lead even though the pace was now slower. Milojevic and Bogdanovic managed to cut the difference with free throws and the latter's second triple, which made it 36-39 lead. Tripkovic brought Partizan closer with a jumper and then detonated a bomb from the arc to tie, 41-41. Perovic's basket-plus-free throw gave Partizan the lead back, 44-43, but Batiste, Lakovic and Spanoulis combined for 5 points to take back a 46-48 halftime lead for Panathinaikos.
Tripkovic assisted Milojevic to forge another tie at the start of the second half. Tripkovic then scored from behind the arc to push Partizan in front, 51-50. Scepanovic made his ex-fans in the arena sad with 3 points from the line and a triple for new Panathinaikos lead. Partizan managed to take the lead back, however, after Tripkovic and Smiljanic jumpers. Back and forth it went, with Batiste's dunk changing the lead again. Both teams were playing much better defense, but the Greens still got another triple, this by Diamantidis for a 57-61 lead. After the game was interrupted by fans, Jakovic continued stroking from distance to conclude a 0-8 run by the Greens. It took the same shot by Petar Bozic to keep Partizan close and Pekovic to score on a put-back to cut the difference to 64-66 after 30 minutes.
Bogdanovic turned the scorebord to Partizan's side with a triple to open the final quarter, but Spanulis flipped it again with his own downtown strike. As Tripkovic and Batiste shared the first in a series of leads, the foul situation saw both Partizan playmakers leave go over the limit and leave the game with more than 5 minutes to go. Nevertheless, a three-point play Milojevic tied the score again, the he put Partizan ahead with a steal and free throws. Batiste had an answer, his first triple, and Hatzivrettas joined him in shooting the guests ahead 78-82. Tzartsaris dunked to punctuate a 0-8 Greens blast that came with a bonus, Milojevic's fifth foul, called against him on offense. Tripkovic tried cutting the gap with a triple that made it 83-86 with 2 minutes left. Hatzivrettas and Lakovic were coolhanded through 4 free throws, but second later, Tripkovic scored from downtown before committing his fifth foul, too. A missed Lakovic free throw and Bogdanovic making both of his for Partizan left an 89-91 score 20 seconds left. When Bogdanovic tied at the foul line with 9 seconds left, 7,000 fans at Pionir Arena were on their feet. Pekovic immedietely fouled Hatzivrettas who again made his shots. Stefanovic and Lakovic made a foul shot each, then Lakovic fouled Stefanovic with the Greens up 92-94. Stefanovic scored one from the line. When he missed the second, his teammates Suput and Perovic got second chances, but missed, as Panathinaikos escaped with a 93-94 victory.
Thursday, January 19, 2006