Panathinaikos gets key win in Obradovic's return to Athens
In an emotional night marked by coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic's return to Athens, Panathinaikos Athens registered a pivotal win in Group E by downing Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul 76-67 in the Greek capital on Thursday. Panathinaikos improved to 6-5, stayed in playoffs territory and gained the tiebreak advantage over Fenerbahce, which dropped to 5-6. Mike Bramos led the winners with 23 points on 7-of-8 three-point shooting. Bramos tied the club record for most threes in a game – which he had already shared with Dimitris Diamantidis – and became the first player in competition history to make 7 triples in a game on three occasions. Dimitris Diamantidis added 15 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists while Antonis Fotsis and Zack Wright each scored 10 points for Panathinaikos. Emir Preldzic led Fenerbahce with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Bojan Bogdanovic added 10 points for the guests. Nemanja Bjelica shined early, getting help from Bogdanovic and Preldzic to give Fenerbahce a 12-19 lead late in the first quarter. Wright led a 10-0 run that restored a 22-19 Panathinaikos edge soon after that. Wright kept pushing Panathinaikos and a three-point play by Diamantidis gave the Greens a 41-37 lead at halftime. Fenerbahce trailed 50-49 late in the third quarter but Fotsis, Diamantidis and Bramos combined for all the points in an 11-0 run that broke the game open at 61-49. Panathinaikos led 68-53 with six minutes left before Bogdanovic, Linas Kleiza and Bjelica brought Fenerbahce as close as 72-67 in the final minute. Diamantidis hit 4 free throws in the final 33 seconds to seal a key win. Obradovic was honored in a long on-court ceremony at halftime and a giant banner with a huge picture of Obradovic reading "King is back" was unfurled before the game.
First quarter: Bjelica puts Fenerbahce in front
Emir Preldzic got Fenerbahce going with an easy basket, but Jonas Maciulis matched it with a turnaround jumper and a three-pointer by Roko Ukic gave Panathinaikos a 5-2 lead. Bjelica answered from downtown and a fast break layup by Bogdanovic put Fenerbahce back ahead, 5-7. Zoric capped a 0-7 run with a layup, Stephane Lasme split free throws before a dunk by Bogdanovic further boosted the guests' lead. Panathinaikos struggled to find open shots after a timeout and a corner triple by Preldzic made it an 8-point game. Bramos joined the three-point shootout and Blagota Sekulic scored around the basket, as Panathinaikos tried a different backcourt with Zack Wright and Dimitris Diamantidis together on court. Fotsis and Bjelica traded three-pointers before a layup-plus-foul on Ukic brought Panathinaikos within 16-19 after 10 intense minutes.
Second quarter: Wright shines as greens take the lead
Ukic kept pushing Panathinaikos with a driving layup early in the quarter. Fenerbahce struggled to score for more than two minutes and a five-meter jumper by Mike Batiste completed the Greens' comeback, 20-19. Wright ignited the crowd with a coast-to-coast layup which capped a 10-0 Panathinaikos run. Preldzic stepped up with a layup off a Fenerbahce timeout. Bramos downed a mid-range jumper, but a driving basket by Pierre Jackson kept the guests within 24-23. Omer Onan hit an off-balance triple and even though Maciulis answered from downtown, Onan insisted with another triple for a 27-28 Fenerbahce edge. Wright made free throws that Kleiza erased with a four-meter jumper. Onan added free throws. Bramos sank a corner three-pointer and a slam by Wright restored a 34-32 Panathinaikos lead. After Jackson and Bogdanovic made foul shots, Wright scored around the basket and Loukas Mavrokefalidis gave Panathinaikos a 38-35 cushion. A layup by Bogdanovic and a wild three-point play by Diamantidis fixed the halftime score at 41-37.
Third quarter: Fotsis steps up to increase lead
Bo McCalebb followed free throws with a fast break layup to tie the game at 41-41, right after the break. A reverse layup by Preldzic soon put the guests back ahead, 41-43. Panathinaikos was held scoreless for more than three minutes until Diamantidis stepped up with a rainbow triple. Bramos also struck from downtown to give the hosts some fresh air at 47-43. Preldzic shined with a big basket in the low post that Bramos bettered with another three-pointer. Fenerbahce did not find answers on offense and brought Bogdanovic back on court. Zoric finished a long, two-chance Fenerbahce offense with a turnaround jumper and a wild driving layup by Preldzic kept the guests within 50-49. Diamantidis made free throws and Fotsis followed a layup-plus-foul with a buzzer-beating three-pointer that gave Panathinaikos a 58-49 margin.
Fourth quarter: Panathinaikos wins, gets tie-break advantage
Bramos sank his fifth triple in as many attempts to make it a double-digit game, 61-49, after an 11-0 run. McCalebb scored around the basket, but he didn't find much help around. Meanwhile, Panathinaikos, led by an outstanding Diamantidis, kept controlling the game tempo by using long possessions. Diamantidis finished one of those with a driving basket that gave Panathinaikos a 63-51 lead with seven minutes left. Bramos fired in another one from downtown. Kleiza dunked off the baseline and a driving layup by Ukic gave the Greens a 68-53 margin with less than six minutes left. Fenerbahce improved its defense, however, while Bogdanovic and Kleiza brought Fenerbahce within 68-60. Panathinaikos could not find the way to the basket and free throws by Jackson made it 68-62 after a 0-9 run. After Bramos buried his seventh three-pointer, Jackson hit foul shots and Bjelica struck from downtown to close within 72-67 in the final minute. Diamantidis made 4 of 4 free throws in crunch time, which allowed Panathinaikos to round out a perfect night, getting the tie-break advantage if both teams are tied at the end of the Top 16.
Thursday, March 20, 2014