The first Euroleague home game for Panionos On Telecoms this decade came with an inconvenient detail for the hosts: the name of the opponent. The reigning Euroleague champions from CSKA Moscow took no pity on Panionios in its Group D home opener and rolled to a 52-86 victory in which some history was amde in Athens on Wednesday. That didn't dampen the spirits of the local fans, however, as they stayed on their feet chanting all the way to the final buzzer. CSKA took control early and kept adding chunks to the lead until the game was out of reach for Panionios soon after halftime. CSKA's inside advantage was illustrated by 59% two-point shooting (25 for 42), a 24-45 rebounding advantage and 7 blocked shots to zero by Panionios. Erazem Lorbek led the winners with 17 points, while Nikos Zisis came off the bench to add 14 and J.R. Holden netetd 8 in becomming the third player in Euroleague Basketball history to reach the 2,000 point mark. Despite suffocating defense throughout by the visitors, Panionios got 14 points from Branko Cvetkovic, 11 from Ioannis Kalambokis and 10 from Goran Nikolic. CSKA improved to 2-0 in Group D while Panionios continues to look for a first victory.
CSKA started by anchoring its game in the paint, a tactic meant to cause foul trouble to Lonny Baxter, and Lorbek did not disappoint his head coach, Ettore Messina. Lorbek scored 5 points as the visitors took a quick 6-7 lead. Goran Nikolic responded from beyond the arc for Panionios, only to be copied by Holden, who regained the lead for CSKA at 9-10. Lorbek took over again with 5 more points, one basket on a nice feed from Holden, as CSKA pulled away to a 9-15 advantage After a timeout, Trajan Langdon added a triple for the guests despite some tough defense. With his team looking at the wrong side of a 9-20 scoreboard, Kalambokis ignited a 5-0 run for Panionios to bring the crowd to its feet. However, Holden scored an unbelievable triple to close the quarter at 14-23.
Zisis came off the bench to hit a jumper early in the second quarter for CSKA. A few possessions later, Holden drove to make it 16-27. On the other end, Aaron Miles could not find any rhythm offensively and as a result Panionios was stalled. Soon, Lorbek connected on a three-pointer - reaching 15 points in as many minutes - as CSKA's lead soared to 20-36. CSKA was putting on its usual defensive clinic now to keep the hosts at bay and it wasn’t long before Zisis slashed to double the margin at 20-40. Ioannis Georgallis finally ended the dry spell for Panionios, only to be bettered by Morris, who knocked down a triple to emphatically show CSKA was in charge as it headed to the locker room with a resounding 24-45 halftime lead.
The second half got underway with Kalambokis scoring on a gutsy drive, but Langdon retorted with a triple. As long as CSKA was finding its way to the basket, Panionios could not swing the momentum back its way. Soon, Ramunas Siskauskas hit an off-balance jumper to send the advantage up to the 20-point region again, midway through the quarter. The guests were too talented and too efficient to let Panionios even think of a comeback. The fans never stopped encouraging the hosts and they erupted when Miles finished a fastbreak with a one-handed dunk to make it 35-57. Panionios picked up its defensive intensity, however Zoran Planinic rose up to the occasion with one of his patented drives for CSKA. As such, CSKA breezed to a 40-63 margin heading into the game's final 10 minutes.
Morris sank a triple from the corner to get the scoreboard rolling in the fourth quarter and Planinic followed with a three-point bomb of his own as CSKA lead exploded to 42-73. Panionios was gasping for breath against the stifling CSKA defense, whereas on the other end Planinic was orchestrating the offense and Zisis was taking and hitting good shots. The current Euroleague champion was downright dominant, as indicated by the final score, 52-86, and the fans had no other chance but to recognize CSKA's brilliance with a classy series of ovations and chants.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008