Unicaja managed to please its fans in its last Euroleague home game this season by rallying to beat Panathinaikos 83-78 in Malaga on Thursday night. Unicaja, with no chance to make it to the Top 16, improved to 4-9 in Group B despite losing by 15 midway through the third quarter. A double technical foul on Unicaja's coach, Sergio Scariolo, woke both fans and players up, who outscored the Greens by 44-24 in the final 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Panathinaikos took a step backwards in the Top 16 race and fell to the sixth place with a 6-7 record. The Greens will need to beat Krka in Athens next week and wait for other results. Larry Lewis led the winners with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Chuck Kornegay added 17 points, Stephane Risacher 15 and Berni Rodriguez 13 for the winners. Jaka Lakovic led the Panathinaikos scorers with 13 points. Fragiskos Alvertis had 12, Kostas Tsartsaris 11 and Nikos Hatzivrettas 10 for the Greens.
Panathinaikos made a statement early, forcing Unicaja to miss its first 5 shots while a double-pump layup by Arriel McDonald and long two-pointer by Tsartsaris gave the Greens a 2-6 lead. Lewis, with a tip-in, helped Unicaja stay in the game, but the visitors used a 0-7 run, in which Georgios Kalaitzis scored 5 points and Tsartsaris dunked, for 4-13 lead after 7 minutes. The hosts woke up with a layup by Risacher and a low post basket by Kornegay, but Panathinaikos didn't lose intensity as coach Obradovic started moving the bench. A turnaround jumper by Mike Batiste gave the Greens an 11-20 lead at the end of the first quarter, but then he left the game with a sprained ankle.
Unicaja continued struggling early in the second quarter, while a mid-range jumper by Lakovic gave the Greens a 14-26 lead. Rodriguez and Marcos Baltanas then drilled one triple apiece for Unicaja, but free throws by Lakovic and a huge three-point play by Fragiskos Alvertis extended Panathinaikos's lead to 20-34 after 16 minutes. The hosts switched to an effective 2-3 zone defense, but Unicaja could not find the way of the basket. The Greens stopped struggling once Hatzivrettas and Lakovic drilled three-pointers, enought to put the guests up 28-43 at halftime.
Unicaja returned with a 6-2 opening run powered by Lewis and Kornegay, then both teams exchanged baskets until Scariolo received a double technical foul and had to leave the game. McDonald drilled 4 of 6 free throws to extend the Greens lead to 39-54 midway through the third quarter. Then Unicaja revived with a 12-0 run that included triples by Rodriguez and Carlos Cabezas and wild dunks by Lewis and Kornegay, enough to come within 51-54 and get the fans fully engaged in the comeback. Panathinaikos had lost control of an otherwise comfortable game, as a free throw by Cabezas and a layup by Kornegay made it a one-point game at 54-55 before Darryl Middleton, with 2 foul shots, gave the Greens a 54-57 lead after 30 minutes.
Unicaja used strong defense and high intensity to get its first lead of the game since 2-0, as a basket by Lewis and a layup by Risacher put the hosts ahead 58-57. A whole new game had started and the hosts were on fire. Back-to-back three-pointers by Lewis and Risacher extended the Unicaja lead to 67-62 with 6 minutes to go. Panathinaikos managed to make it a two-point game at 69-67 on a layup by Tsartsaris, but Rodriguez scored 5 consecutive points to make it 74-67. A three-pointer by Louis Bullock sealed the win for the hosts, and even when Panathinaikos tried to foul down the stretch, Kornegay drilled his 4 free throw attempts and sent the local fans home happy.
Thursday, February 12, 2004