Panathinaikos cruised to an easy 75-53 win over Asseco Prokom on Thursday night at OAKA, but the losing team still had a reason to celebrate. Prokom was clearly outclassed from the start as it played without three of its top players so far this season – Pat Burke, David Logan and Dan Ewing – as well as head coach Tomas Pacesas, who was too ill to coach, but was fortunate to back into the Top 16 nonetheless when the two teams competing with it for fourth place in Group B, SLUC Nancy and Zalgiris Kaunas, also came up short. The Greens dominated the game and despite a spirited effort from the Prokom players on hand, the result was never in doubt. Sarunas Jasikevicius paced Panathinaikso with 14 points, Antonis Fotsis recorded 13 points and 8 rebounds, Dusan Sakota scored a season-high 13 and Dimitris Diamantidis matched his career-high with 8 assists, although his streak of a three-pointer made in 16 straight Euroleague appearances dating back to last season came to an end. Filip Dylewicz scored a Euroleague career-high 19 points to lead Prokom in defeat.
Panathinaikos started slowly against Prokom’s zone defense, but so did the guests who missed their first 3 shots and remained scoreless for almost three minutes. Eventually, Aleksej Nesovic unleashed a triple to get the scoreboard rolling, only to be copied in the next possession by Kostas Tsartsaris. The hosts were clearly lackluster in the offensive end and head coach Zeljko Obradovic called for a timeout only 4:20 into the game as his players had already committed 4 turnovers. And then, after another empty possession, the legendary coach took the rare decision to send all his starters to the bench. Nesovic drove to the basket to make it 3-7. However it wasn’t long before Panathinaikos’s superior depth earned it the lead. Jasikevicius scored 6 points to fuel an 11-0 run, good enough for a 14-7 lead. Adam Lapeta missed a pair of free throws, however Prokom got the offensive rebound – its fifth so far – and Tomasz Swietonski knocked down a triple to cut the deficit to 14-10 after 10 minutes of play.
Fotsis opened the second quarter with a three-pointer and, despite a triple by Dylewicz, Panathinaikos was in the driver’s seat. Sakota swished a triple of his own, Nikola Pekovic muscled his way inside for 3 quick baskets and Fotsis hit another one from downtown to soar the lead to double-digit territory, 29-16. The guests were in trouble, shooting only 2-out of-13 from within the arc, yet Panathinaikos got complacent on defense and allowed Prokom to get the monkey off its back and pull within 34-27 at halftime.
As the second half commenced, Drew Nicholas and Sakota buried triples and Fotsis scored in transition to break the game open, 42-27. After of a Prokom timeout, Ronnie Burrell ignited a 0-5 spurt, but still scoring looked like an uphill battle for the guests. As a result, albeit Panathinaikos was playing in low gear and its players relied way too much on three-point shooting -3-out of-10 in eight minutes- the Greens did not face any trouble to keep Prokom out of reach. Free-throws by Fotsis, Diamantidis and Jasikevicius allowed Panathinaikos to breeze to a 53-35 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Jasikevicius fired in 2 triples to keep the guests at bay and Prokom was unable to find any rhythm offensively. Nesovic stole the ball from Mike Batiste and finished a fast break with an impressive dunk, but once again the short-handed guests could not swing the momentum of the game. Batiste contributed 4 points to extend the margin to 69-44, so in the waning minutes the only thing that mattered was the results coming in from the other Group B games as it was clear that the outcome in Athens would be Green.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009