The difference between experience and youth was never more apparent as Panathinaikos overwhelmed visiting Partizan 81-62 in Athens on Thursday to remain undefeated in Group C. With a record of 4-0, the Greens remain tied for first place with Real Madrid, also undefeated, while Partizan falls to 0-4 and stays in the Group C basement. Panathinaikos dominated even without leading scorer Jaka Lakovic, who was ill, but considering its defense, points hardly mattered. The Greens held Partizan to just 5 points in the second quarter - a Euroleague record for that one - and 6 in the third. By winning the middle quarters 44-11, Panathinaikos essentially won the game. Fragiskos Alvertis led five Greens in double figures with 13 points. Mike Batiste, Nikos Hatzivrettas and Vasilis Spanoulis had 11 each and Dimitris Diamantidis 10. Nikola Loncar led the guests with 19 points, while Dejan Milojevic had 10 and 14 rebounds.
With Lakovic sidelined and Diamantidis seating on the bench, Vassilis Spanoulis was the go-to guy for Panathinaikos early. The Greens scored their first 8 points from the foul line, but soon Uros Tripkovic hit a three-pointer to give Partizan a one-point margin, 8-9. Then it was time for Spanoulis, who bagged 6 consecutive points, including the first Panathinaikos basket, a three-pointer, while pushing his team ahead 14-9. When Panathinaikos coach Zeljiko Obradovic decided to use his three-guard lineup - with Spanoulis, Hatzivrettas and Diamantidis - the hosts created and finished some fastbreak opportunities to soar in front by 23-16. With a jumper by Loncar at the buzzer, Partizan was able to close the gap to 24-20 after 10 minutes.
Partizan would have to wait the whole second quarter before making another shot from the field. As the second quarter began, Panathinaikos was more focused on defense and rebounds, while Partizan was trapped in the shadows. The Greens deployed all their offensive weapons, and even though Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic switched his defense to a zone, Panathinaikos was unstoppable. Alvertis loaded his three-point gun and pulled the trigger on the shot-clock buzzer, making the score 40-21. Then followed a three-pointer by Giorgos Kalaitzis, also on the shot-clock buzzer. Partizan's first point of the quarter, a free throw by Milojevic, was answered with yet another triple, by Alvertis, for a 26-point gap, 48-22. Panathinaikos almost set a new record by not having allowed a field goal throughout an entire quarter, but Predrag Suput managed to land his own three-pointer in the very last second of the second quarter, by which time Panathinaikos ruled, 52-25.
Nothing changed in the third quarter, as Panathinaikos kept playing great defense, refusing Partizan any easy shots. Last season's best Euroleague defensive player, Diamantidis, continued to trap and make steals enough for his team to hold the reins tight. Obradovic took advantage of the favorable circumstances to try out different schemes without any cost whatsoever for the Greens. Combining an amazing defense with offensive stability, Panathinaikos played a practice-like third quarter, the end of which found the hosts 68-31 ahead. Over the previous 20 minutes, the Greens had outscored Partizan by four times, 44-11.
The outcome was clear, but Partizan simply did not give up. Loncar stroked twice from downtown and had 8 points in 2-13 run which brought the guests within 70-40. Loncar had time to put on a shooting exhibition, nailing 3 more bombs throughout this quarter while Lika Bogdanovic added another from downtown to help Partizan get closer, at 77-59, with 2 minutes remaining. Partizan scored 31 points in the final period, but free throws by Diamantidis fixed the score at 81-62 before the final buzzer.
Thursday, November 24, 2005