Panathianikos deals out defense to defeat Milan, 73-57
Panathinaikos presented its calling card for the Top 16 with a defensive-minded 73-57 home win over EA7 Emporio Armani Milan on Thursday before 14,000 happy fans at Olympic Sports Center Athens. The Greens cruised to their first Group E victory by winning every quarter and dominating 39-22 in rebounds. Dimitris Diamantidis had 11 assists, 4 more than the entire Milan team. Stephane Lasme had 13 rebounds, 7 more than any Milano player, and 3 blocks to lead the defensive effort. On the scoring end, James Gist paced the Greens with 12 points while making 4 of 5 two-pointers and his only triple of the night. He was joined in double figures by Roko Ukic, with 11 points, while Ramel Curry and Antonis Fotsis had 10 each. Milan got 14 points from Alessandro Gentile and 11 from Keith Langford, but the visitors suffered from 5-for-19 three-point shooting and a game-long inability to deal with the Panathinaikos perimeter defense.
First quarter: Greens get their D on early
Ukic, whose presence was in doubt due to an injury, opened the game with a three-pointer that got the Panathinaikos crowd going, as did a dunks by Gist and Lasme to give the hosts a quick 7-4 advantage. Only Gentile scored for Milan before Nicolo Melli's layup. Melli and Hackett, starting in his Euroleague debut for Milan, then sandwiched three-pointers around one by Maciulis to draw the visitors within 13-12. Lasme's layup and another dunk by Gist kept Panathinaikos in the lead, while the latter's three-pointer marked a high lead until then of 20-12. The Panathinaikos defense did the rest, holding Milano scoreless for more than 4 minutes until Langford beat the buzzer for a 20-14 score after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Panathinaikos doesn't bend
Maciulis upped the lead with an inside basket to open the second quarter. Kristjan Kangur's back-door pass to Gentile for a layup was answered by a three-pointer from Fotsis. David Moss's baseline jumper drew Milan within 26-19 as the defenses played physical and the baskets came slow. Lasme and C.J. Wallace traded some of that physicality and free throws at 28-21, before 2 more by Diamantidis were met with Hackett feeding Gani Lawal for a rare, easy dunk. Langford then pulled up for a transition jumper, but Ukic matched him with a driving layup. Moss hit a fall-back jumper and Langford popped another jumper, but Loukas Mavrokefalidis erased both with 4 perfect free throws and then finished a feed from Diamantidis to make it 38-29. Moss got 2 points back with a runner, leaving a 38-31 scoreboard in favor of Panathinaikos at the break.
Third quarter: Greens really clamp down
Defense remained the theme as Gist's single free throw after an offensive rebound was the only point scored for more than 3 minutes of the second half until Diamantidis dropped a layup for the game's first double-digit lead, 41-31. Gentile answered that with a face-up triple, but there at 41-34 the scoreboard was stuck through the halfway mark in the quarter. Curry broke the spell with a steal and layup for Panathinaikos that Gentile again answered from the arc. But this time Curry was ready with his own three-pointer at the other end, making it 46-37. Ukic hit a free throw and Gist a back-down turnaround for the game's biggest lead until then, 49-37. After a timeout, Ukic stopped and popped a triple to make it 52-37, but Jerrels came on to lob to Lawal for a much-needed Milan dunk and Gentile added a free throw for a 52-40 scoreboard after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Panathinaikos shuts the door
Curry and Jerrels traded layups to open the fourth quarter. Then Panathinaikos sought to put the game away, getting both Curry and Fotsis open in the same corner for triples to make it 60-42. Mlano could figure out nothing on offense, and its next turnover sent Fotsis for an easy layup and a 20-point Panathinaikos lead. Jerrels got 4 points back at the foul line, then Langford hit 2 of 2, the first free throws all game for both. Michael Bramos got most of those back for Panathinaikos with one shot, a triple on an inbounds play. When Langford scored a layup and hit another free throw, it was 66-51, but Panathinaikos had time, just 3:30 left, on its side. Some great ball movement by Panathinaikos and another triple by Bramos seemed to make sure of the victory. Jerrels struck from deep then and Lawal rammed in a rebound, but an alley-oop from Ukic to Gist was the final proof that the first win of the Top 16 was staying in Athens.
Thursday, January 2, 2014