Panathinaikos made an important step to start the Top 16 by taking the first Group F road win of the new phase, 73-84 over Zalgiris in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday. Panathinaikos joins Tau atop the Group F standings at 1-0 with the knowledge that it has three games left to play at home in Athens. Menawhile, Zalgiris dropped to 0-1 and will look to steal a road win later. Mike Batiste and Ibrahim Kutluay, in his return to Euroleague action, led the winners each with 16 points. Those two players combined for 21 points in the final quarter to help the guests to seal the outcome. Jaka Lakovic added 15 points and Fragiskos Alvertis 10 for Panathinaikos. Mindaugas Timinskas led Zalgiris with 17 points, Dainius Salenga and Tanoka Beard each added 13 while Simonas Serapinas had 11 points for the hosts, who were saddled by foul problems from the first half onwards.
Zalgiris got the opening basket from Dainius Salenga but Panathinaikos rallied as Vlado Scepanovic made a layup, Lakovic hit from outside and Baxter added a pair of baskets that put visitors ahead 4-9. Although its man-to-man defense faltered, Zalgiris found Beard on offense to cut the margin to 10-14. Still, Panathinaikos used penetration smartly, drawing three fouls in 5 minutes on Zalgiris point guard Robert Pack, who went to the bench. Lakovic, whose penetrations led to those fouls, now buried a triple. Zalgiris got active play from Darjus Lavrinovic, who scored before Salenga's free throws reduced edge to 17-21. Meanwhile, Beard and Baxter battled underneath. Beard hit 1 of 2 free throws, but committed Baxter's layup gave Panathinaikos a 20-26 lead after 10 minutes.
Substitutes Martynas Andriuskevicius, with a block, and Serapinas, with 2 three-pointers, got Zalgiris going early in the second quarter. However, Panathinaikos got its own extra help from the arc, where both Dimitrios Diamantadis and Ibrahim Kutluay added triples. Serapinas stepped up again with a fastbreak layup and then Zalgiris found Mindaugas Timinskas for a shot from downtown that fired up the crowd and trimmed the difference to 31-34. But everyone was on target now. Fragiskos Alvertis answered with triple for Panathinaikos, but Zalgiris had its rhythm back now. Paulius Jankunas made back-to-back jumpers and Serapinas his third long strikee from the left corner to give the hosts their first lead since the game's opening basket, 38-37. An exchange of baskets ended with Vidas Ginevicius making free throws to preserve the Zalgiris lead, 42-41, at the half.
Zalgiris started third period with tight defense and Salenga's triple. But bad news followed for Zalgiris as tall and big Patrick Femerling forced Tanoka's fourth foul and he was replaced by Andriuskevicius. Panathinaikos made its takeover with a 0-5 run as Kutluay made free throws and Alvertis struck from outside the arc, putting visitors ahead 45-47. Zalgiris wasn't backing down, however. Pack fed Timinskas for a fastbreak layup to tie. Timinskas then grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, but Zalgiris faltered as Pack's fourth foul sent Alvertis to the line for 2 good free throws. Panathinaikos turned to very tight and aggressive defense and Zalgiris kept missing difficult shots while the visitors kept scoring free throws. A tight score suddenly became a 49-54 lead for the visitors, however, as Nikos Hatzivrettas steeped up with a triple to finish the third quarter.
It took almost 2 minutes for anyone to score in fourth quarter, until Timinskas penetrated and Ginevicius fired from downtown to pull Zalgiris within 54-56. In between, Kutluay had scored for Panathinaikos, and now he and Batiste downed another shot each to expand the lead to 54-60. Kutluay's next shot, from downtown, demoralized the Zalgiris defense as it threatened to push the lead to double digits, 54-63. Salenga's fastbreak and a jumper by Lavrinovic got Zalgiris within 60-65. Next, a three-point basket-plus-free throw by Lavrinovic charged up the home crowd, but at 63-65, the Panathinaikos reaction was definitive. A 0-8 run that included three baskets by Batiste seemed to settle it, although Zalgiris again cut the lead to 6 on a pair of occasions. Kutluay and Batiste added a last basket each and Lakovic took care of the rest from the foul line as Panathinaikos left Kaunas with an all-important Top 16 road win.
Thursday, February 24, 2005