Defending Euroleague champion Panathinaikos survived a tough challenge from Partizan Igokea before sneaking out a 90-94 win at Pionir Arena on Wednesday night in Belgrade. Dimitrios Diamantidis made two clutch free throws at the end and Novica Velickovic missed a potentially game-winning three-pointer as the Greens took the victory. Panathinaikos improved to 3-0 and now shares first place in Group C with Real Madrid. Head coach Zeljko Obradovic's team hosts AXA FC Barcelona next week. Sani Becirovic and Diamantidis led Panathinaikos with 16 points apiece, Vassilis Spanoulis added 15 and Kostas Tsartsaris posted 13. Meanwhile this season's Cinderella, Partizan, lost for the first time this season despite another monster effort from Nikola Pekovic, who finished with 28 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 10 rebounds. Milt Palacio added 23 and Velickovic had 14 for the the Serbian champs, who travel to face Real Madrid next week.
Panathinaikos got on the board first on a second-chance Becirovic triple, before Velickovic dunked for Partizan's first points. Diamantidis converted a layup and continued to cause problems for Palacio as he added 2 more points from the line. When Diamantidis was finally contained, Becirovic continued to score and Nikos Hatzivretas joined him with points from downtown as the visitors completed a 1-10 run and took a 9-21 run. Palacio managed to stop the Greens' storm with Partizan's first triple. The hosts switched to a zone defense with giant Slavko Vranes in the middle, but coach Obradovic answered with new backcourt featuring Sarunas Jasikevicijus and Spanoulis, who helped keep the visitors ahead 16-24 after 10 minutes.
Uros Tripkovic hit a bomb from a fifth chance, but shortly after that Milenko Tepic committed an offensive foul and Panathinaikos took advantage to go ahead 19-30. Pekovic came through with points in the paint for a 9-2 Partizan surge. Panathinaikos brought Diamantidis back and he took command with his defensive actions as Spanoulis was busy in scoring and Panathinaikos soon reestablished a double-digit lead. Partizan answered with a big defensive effort and a 9-2 run including triples from Dusan Kecman and Velickovic to get within 39-41. Diamantidis closed the first half with buzzer-beating triple as the visiting side went into the locker room leading 41-46.
Both teams looked nervous at the start of the second half and committed many turnovers. Partizan was first to establish its own game and the result was an 8-0 run and the hosts' first lead, 51-50. Velickovic scored from behind the arc and the Panathinaikos bench took a timeout. Spanoulis and Tsartsaris came back and Mike Batiste finally scored for the visitors. Spanoulic hit a triple and Becirovic did the same, making it 53-59 after a 0-7 run. Velickovic's dunk showed Partizan wasn't done. The home team pushed to 63-62 and Palacio added a three-point play, but Jasikevicijus answered with a three-pointer. He scored two more from the line, but Pekovic hit after an offensive rebound and Partizan led 70-69 at the end of third period.
he final period started with Tsarstaris and Spanoulis hitting jumpers and Kennedy Winston scoring on the fast break as Panathinaikos added another 0-6 run. The teams both struggled for each ball as the Greek champs held Partizan scoreless for almost three minutes. Finally Vitkovac made a three-point play and the score was 73-75. Diamantidis hit a seven-meters bomb as Panathinaikos led 76-82 with five minutes left. Shortly after that, Dusan Kecman fouled out and Diamantidis added 2 more points from the line. Palacio kept Partizan alive with 4 straight points and Andrija Zizic committed his fifth personal foul on offense. Pekovic scored and Partizan cut the deficit to 84-88 with two minutes left. He and Pekovic made an 8-2 run and the score was 88-90 in the last minute of the game. Spanoulis missed a triple and Pekovic tied it with 30 seconds remaining. With the crowd on its feet, Diamantidis scored twice from the line and Velickovic missed a potentially game-winning three-pointer, allowing the Greens to take a hard-earned win.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007