In another Group B survival test, Montepaschi beat Panathinaikos 86-74 at home in Siena on Thursday after a great game played with incredible intensity from both sides. Respecting the law that requires home wins, Montepaschi raised its record to 3-2, with all three victories before its own crowd. Panathinaikos, meanwhile, continued a difficult start by falling to 1-4 and a three-way tie for sixth place with Unicaja and Krka. The top scorer of the match was David Vanterpool with 18 points, but he was strongly helped by Bootsy Thornton with 17 and Mikalis Kakiouzis with 15. The visitors had 5 players in double figures. Kostantinos Tsartsaris opened the way with 17 and 9 rebounds. He was followed by Nikos Chatzivrettas with 16, Darryl Middleton with 14, Fragiskos Alvertis with 12 and Arriel McDonald with 10.
The match started with a crash between McDonald and Thornton at mid-court. While McDonald immediately got up, Montepaschi's guard was obliged to go to the locker room. The Greens started with a 4-10 run, thanks to 3 turnaround jumpers by Darryl Middleton and 4 points by Nikos Chatzivrettas. The hosts played with a great patience against a Panathinaikos zone and Mindaugas Zukauskas drilled the first triple of the game. Montepaschi came back to within 11-12, but Middleton was still on fire and reached 10 points after only 7 minutes. Tsartsaris came in from the bench with 4 points on drives, but Vanterpool and David Andersen soon had Montepaschi within 17-18, and Giacomo Galanda tied at 18 from the free throw line. Siena tried to face Middleton with a double team, but he assisted Tsartsaris on a basket before Andersen hopped off the bench to make his first shot, a jumper, for a 20-20 tie after 10 minutes.
Vrbica Stefanov opened the second quarter with a three-pointer for the first home lead, 23-20. Middleton missed his first shot after 13 minutes and Obradovic gave his big man a rest, bringing on recently recovered Michael Batiste. Thornton returne with a bomb for a 29-24 Montepaschi edge, but Panathinaikos used 2 steals to earn 4 easy points with a dunk of Batiste and a layup from McDonald. Thornton answered, but so did Tsartsaris answer him with a right-hand hook. Montepaschi suffered in the low post but kept a 37-32 lead with a two-point high percentage. The guests suddenly tied with 5 points in a row with a triple of Fragiskos Alvertis and a McDonald jump shot. Montepaschi had 5 points in its pocket, too, as Thornton's drive and Vanterpool's triple on the buzzer had the hosts ahead 42-37 at the half.
After the break, Montepaschi took a 48-40 lead thanks to Kakiouzis and Vanterpool, though center Roberto Chiacig stayed in the locker room to treat some physical problems. Even if Tsartsaris and Middleton went on finding the basket from the paint, Montepaschi used the physical advantage of Vanterpool against Jaka Lakovic. Montepaschi's guard found good shots for himself and his teammates. Middleton kept the green's close at 53-48, but committed his fourth personal foul and had to sit. Thornton fired up a three for a lead of 8 points, 57-49, which Kakiouzis turned into double digits at 60-50. Still, Panathinaikos stayed alive with a sweet jumper by McDonald and a basket-plus-foul by Hatzivrettas. McDonald added 2 free throws with 10 seconds left in the quarter. Stefanov's coast to coast run and rainbow shot failed, but Thornton was there to slam dunk the rebound and earn a standing ovation from his fans as Montepaschi led 63-57 after the third period.
Montepaschi seemed to freeze its advantage for 4 minutes. Stefanov enlarged the home lead to 75-65 with a triple, and though Tsartsaris still ruled under the boards, Vanterpool answered with a wonderful reverse shot with an additional foul. With about 4 minutes to play, Panathinaikos still had 11 points to make up and Hatzivrettas went after them, drilling 4 points in two possessions. But Montepaschi seemed to have the victory in its hands already, holding a seven-point lead with 2 minutes remaining until the buzzer, which the hosts easily protected for a home win against the Greens.
Thursday, December 4, 2003