Strong defense and good shooting allowed Partizan to take its first Top 16 win on Thursday, by dumping DKV Joventut at Pionir Arena in Belgrade, Serbia, 85-70. The inside play of Partizan, together with 27-of-43 two-point shooting, allowed the Serbian champs to roll to a 1-2 record in Group E, joining Joventut and Olympiacos at 1-2 at the midway point. Predrag Drobnjak led the winners with 16 points, Vonteego Cummings added 15, and Uros Tripkovic and Kosta Perovic nailed 13 each for Partizan. Drobnjak and Perovic each had 10 rebounds. For Joventut, Elmer Bennett and Rudy Fernandez had 16 points apiece and Charles Gaines added 12. Fernandez and Gaines also had 4 steals apiece.
Perovic opened the scoring for Partizan as the hosts' defense held Joventut scoreless. Both defenses worked hard until Fernandez hit a three-pointer after 3-and-a-half minutes to make it 4-3 for Partizan. However Cummings did the same and Dusan Kecman finished a fastbreak after a steal for a 9-3 advantage. Joventut's first timeout didn't work right away as Milenko Tepic's three-point play made it an 8-0 burst for the hosts. Free throws by Bennett kept Joventut alive, but Partizan owned the tempo and the lead, 16-6. Robert Archibald and Drobnjak traded dunks, but when Gaines scored his own three-point play, the score was 18-11. A basket by Ricky Rubio followed by Ferran Laviña's three allowed Joventut to pull within 20-16, forcing a Partizan timeout. Free throws by Drobnjak ended to the first quarter with his team ahead 23-17.
Laviña opened fire first in the second quarter, but Novica Velickovic matched him to maintain Partizan's edge. Joventut's big men had problems on offense and Luka Bogdanovic hit two more free throws for the hosts. Archibald found the way to the basket with a turnaround layup, but Nikola Pekovic matched him to the fans' delight. The lead reached the double digits when Perovic and Tripkovic scored to make it 33-21. Bennett blasted back-to-back threes to get Joventut going again and a basket by Laviña made it 38-30. Tripkovic was became the protagonist for Partizan on offense and Drobnjak added a reverse dunk to restore a 42-33 lead for the hosts at halftime.
Kecman kept Partizan going at the start of the second half, but the inside connection of Gaines and Dmitri Flis started to work on both ends and Rubio managed to add a free throw. However Drobnjak was still on fire to keep Partizan at a safe distance, 47-38. Fernandez stepped up with 5 consecutive points of his own – including a triple – to trim it to 47-43, and Marcelinho Huertas added a move to make it a 2-point game for a 0-7 run in one minute. Tepic broke the spell with a layup, but Huertas appeared again to match him. Now both teams ran looking for fast, easy baskets and the hosts found them with 5 points from Drobnjak for a 54-47 lead. Partizan also pressed on defense as Joventut looked lost on the court. The run reached 9-0 when Rudy fed Andy Betts underneath for 58-49. An unsportsmanlike foul on Rubio was not used by Partizan to pull away and Rudy soon fed Gaines for a dunk to seal the third period 61-53.
After a scoreless minute, Rudy drained a bomb from downtown to cut the gap to 61-56, but Cummings copied him soon to restore things. A Gaines steal and dunk put Joventut a little closer and then Bennett fed him for a one-handed jam that made it 64-61. Perovic fought hard for an offensive rebound and bucket on the third chance, but Archibald fed Gaines for his third straight dunk. The hosts were now finding easy options in offense as two straight baskets by Perovic made it 72-63 midway through the final period. Drobnjak was called a technical foul and Bennett sank both free throws, but after that, Partizan played to control the ball and let the clock tick away with a 73-65 lead and two minutes to go. Tripkovic's triple poured more salt on the wounds for Joventut, but Rudy grabbed his own offensive rebound for another three that made it 80-70. A technical foul on Gaines allowed Partizan to finally break the game open and cruise to the final 85-70 thanks to Bogdanovic's free throws.
Thursday, March 1, 2007