The Opel Skyliners stayed alive in the fight to reach the Top 16 in Group C in dramatic fashion as a tip-in at the buzzer by little-used Miroslav Todic meant a 68-66 victory over Panathinaikos at home in Frankfurt, Germany, on Wednesday night. Opel improved to 4-7 in the standings, good for at least tie for the sixth spot in Group C at the end of the day, while Panathinaikos dropped to 6-5 and remains tie for second plce. Chris Williams led the winners with 22 points and 8 rebounds, including an incredible bank shot which gave Opel a 66-63 lead in the final minute. Vlado Scepanovic drilled a three for Panathinaikos, but Todic became the hero with his game-winning put-back at the buzzer. With big men Robert Maras and Malick Badiane out with injuries, Todic helped all night and finished with 12 points. Mlajden Sljivancanin added 11 points and Spiros Pantelaidis 10 for the winners. Kostas Tsartsaris posted a double-double for Panathinaikos with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Scepanovic added 15 points and Mike Batiste 11 for the Greens.
The Skyliners started at full speed despite their multiple absences. Alex King opened the score with a running layup, while Williams followed an easy basket with a six-meter jumper for a 6-2 lead. Panathinaikos could not find its rhythm and committed 2 quick turnovers. The visiting shooters were off-target for 3 minutes until Tsartsaris drilled an open three-pointer to bring the Greens within 6-5. After a Panathinaikos timeout, Batiste stepped up with a put-back layup and a jump hook to bring the guests within 10-9. After a Skyliners timeout, Batiste scored in the low post again to for the first Panathinaikos lead,10-11. The Skyliners didn't panic, but instead got back-to-back baskets by Williams and free throws by Pascal Roller to retake a 16-11 edge. A late three by Panteliadis preserved a 19-14 edge for the hosts after 10 minutes.
Todic slashed to the basket for a 21-14 lead earl in the second quarter as the hosts used long possessions and pounded the boards for offensive rebounds. Batiste stepped up with a fastbreak basket and Jaka Lakovic fired in a three-pointer to cut difference to 23-19, but a 2-3 zone defense still let the Skyliners control the game. Panathinaikos had trouble scoring, while a three-pointer by Roller meant a 28-22 Skyliners margin midway through the quarter. Another triple by Lakovic did not change things, as Williams answered with a five-meter jumper and Sljivancanin shot from the arc to force a Panathinaikos timeout at 33-25. After the talk, Tsartsaris found a basket-plus-free throw and added a layup to make it a five-point game at 35-30. Bernd Kruel and Roller combined for 5 points in the final 2 minutes to let Skyliners keep a 40-34 margin at halftime.
Panathinaikos came back after the break with a different attitude, hustling for every ball, but both teams went scoreless for 2 minutes until Williams made a fallaway jumper. Dimitris Diamantidis immediately answered with a triple for the Greens and Tsartsaris followed it with a power dunk. A free throw by Batiste allowed Panathinaikos to regain the lead for the first time since the opening period, 42-43. The Skyliners needed a timeout Diamantidis capped a 0-12 Panathinaikos run by slashing for a three-point play and a 42-46 edge after 25 minutes. A technical foul on Batiste did not change things, as ever-present Tsartsaris beat the 24-second clock with a layup which Scepanovic and Lakovic copied as the Greens' lead reached 44-52. The Panathinaikos defense allowed just 5 points in the third period, good enough for the guests to lead 45-52 entering the fourth.
The Skyliners did not give up, however, as free throws by Todic and a layup by Williams made it a three-point game, 49-52, early in the final period. Scepanovic woke up the Greens up with a coast-to-coast layup, forcing a Skyliners timeout after which Sljivancanin stepped up with consecutive three-pointers, one from each corner, that made it a whole new game. Next, Panteliadid added a double-pump layup in penetration as the Skyliners regained the lead, 57-56. Panathinaikos could not score, while Williams turned a layup into a three-point play for a 60-56 Skyliners lead. It only lasted until Scepanovic drilled one from downtown and Diamantidis dunked in traffic, putting Panathinaikos back in front, 60-61, with 2 minutes to go. Williams scored around the basket, while Tsartsaris and Todic exchanged free throws, and the Skyliners entered the final minute with a 64-63 lead. Diamantidis missed a layup and Williams fired in an incredible bank shot for a 66-63 Opel lead with 33 seconds remaining. Panathinaikos found Scepanovic for an open three which tied the game, 66-66. But the Skyliners still had time for a desperation three-point attempt by Sljivancanin, which he missed. Out of nowhere, however, Todic appeared to make the game-winning tip-in and give Skyliners a lifesaving upset.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005