Montepaschi reached its first Top 16 win on Thursday night by dominating Panathinaikos with an 86-67 Group F victory at home in Siena, Italy. All four teams in Group F are now tied with the same 1-1 record. The key to the victory for Montepaschi was a full court 2-2-1 zone-press defense that limited the Panathinaikos scorers for all 40 minutes. Meanwhile, Bootsy Thornton led all scorers with 22 points, 16 of them coming in the first half, while Michail Kakiouzis added 15 off the bench. David Vanterpool put up 14 points with 9 rebounds and 8 steals, Roberto Chiacig chipped in 10 and Dusan Vukcevic tallied 9 points on just three shots, all in the last 15 minutes of the game. Nikos Hatzivrettas was the high man for the Greens, scoring 19 of his 20 points in the second half. Jaka Lakovic added 12, all but 1 of those in the first half, while Kostas Tsartsaris was the third player in double figures for the Greens with 10.
Lakovic converted a three-point play to give the visitors a 2-5 shortly after the opening tipoff, but Thornton answered with a downtown shot to put Montepaschi ahead 7-5. Panathinaikos extended its defense to full court, but Montepaschi was prepared. The pace of the game sped up and Montepaschi took advantage. Vrbica Stefanov scored an easy layup and Thornton tapped in a rebound to raise the cushion to 17-13 after 7 minutes. Lakovic responded for Panathinaikos with a triple off a pick-and-roll with Darryl Middleton that cut the deficit to 17-16. Montepaschi pushed its lead to 20-16 after a Chiacig free throw and another Stefanov drive, but Panathinaikos scored the final 4 points of the quarter, including a steal and layup by Arriel McDonald that tied the score 20-20 at the buzzer.
Kakiouzis capped a 7-2 Montepaschi run in the first 3 minutes of the second quarter with a triple to give to his side a 27-22 advantage. Montepaschi then aligned a 2-3 zone defense extended to a 2-2-1 zone press and Vanterpool made 2 steals in a row, increasing the margin to 32-26 with a turnaround jumper tallied by Thornton. Panathinaikos struggled to find routes to the basket against the zone and a Thornton fastbreak basket assisted by Vanterpool increased Montepaschi's lead to 38-30. Panathinaikos stayed within striking distance on a triple from Lakovic, already his 11th point of the game, for a 38-33 score. To end the half, Vanterpool knocked down a three-pointer and McDonald tried unsuccessfully to match it at the buzzer, as Montepaschi went into the half with a 42-35 lead.
Montepaschi started the third quarter with Giacomo Galanda at center and Panathiniakos answered with Fragiskos Alvertis at the power foward, but the hosts continued to dominate. A three-point play by Vanterpool gave Montepaschi its first double-digit lead, 47-35, then Kakiouzis extended the run to 7-0 with a basket that put Montepaschi ahead by 14. The Greens couldn't find the bottom of the net against Montepaschi's zone pressure and Thornton capped a 17-3 run with an easy basket in the open court to reach a 59-38 margin. Back-to-back triples from Hatzivrettas reduced the deficit to 59-44, but Montepaschi stayed in control to lead 64-48 after 30 minutes.
The last quarter began with a hook fired in by Kakiouzis and Panathinaikos's hopes of a comeback were put on ice. Mike Batiste scored a pair from the foul line before Dusan Vukcevic connected from downtown against the zone to maintain a comfortable, 69-52 margin. Two triples in a row by Hatzivrettas and Kalaitzis cut the margin to 71-60 but Vukcevic responded with his third triple. Montepaschi aligned its zone press again and Kakiouzis stole another ball, drawing a flagrant foul from Giorgios Kalaitzis. Kakiouzis missed both free throws but Thronton slammed the ball for a 76-60 lead with 5 minutes left. The fifth three-pointer by Hatzivrettas made it 76-64 with under 4 minutes left. Chiacig scored 4 of his 6 free throws to keep a safe margin at 81-66, before Mindaugas Zukauskas tallied a triple to definitively close the match with Montepaschi amassing 19 important points for potential future ties in this group.
Thursday, March 11, 2004