Partizan Belgrade pulled off a stunner on Wednesday night, destroying Group B winner Panathinaikos 80-93 at the OAKA Olympic Hall in Athens, Greece. The win sees Partizan improve to 6-7 in the group and gives the Serbian champs control over their destiny in the regular season finale next week, when Partizan hosts Unicaja. On the other hand, Panathinaikos, which was without injured big men Mike Batiste and Demos Dikoudis, lost for the second straight week after starting the season 11-0. The visitors used a well-balanced team effort, with center Kosta Perovic leading six Partizan scorers in double figures with 19 points on perfect shooting. Partizan started to pull away in the second half, with only the stellar play of Tony Delk keeping Panathinaikos within 34-46 at halftime. The Greens clawed their way back in the third period and seemed poised to regain the lead in the final period, but playmaker Vonteeego Cummings and big Predrag Drobnjak were at their best in the start of the fourth period and Partizan rebuilt the lead by as many as 20 points, coasting to a huge road win. Cummings scored 16 for Partzan, Drobnjak had 15 points and 9 rebounds, Dusan Kecman 15 and 7 boards, Uros Tripkovic 12 points and Milenko Tepic 10. Delk finished with a season-high 23 for Panathinaikos, Sani Becirovic added 16, Ramunas Siskauskas 14 and Dejan Tomasevic 10.
Both teams started the game creating good opportunities on the offensive end. Kostas Tsartsaris opened the scoring, and Kecman, Delk, Perovic and Cummings followed at 4-6 in favor of the visitors. Delk popped in a nice jumper to tie it at 6-6, but Tripkovic nailed one from downtown to give Partizan the lead again at 9-6. The tempo continued to be high-scoring; when Robertas Javtokas connected from inside, the scoreboard stood at 10-11 less than three minutes after the tip-off. Siskauskas nailed a triple to help Panathinaikos regain the lead, but Tepic answered back immediately at 14-14. The lead changed hands again as Tripkovic popped in another three-pointer. Drobnjak nailed a triple from the corner allowing Partizan to build a 16-22 margin, but Becirovic and Tomasevic came in off the bench to combine for 3 points and make it 19-22 at the end of the first quarter.
Perovic connected with ease from inside and Tripkovic did the same from outside to help Partizan sail to 21-27. The visitors seemed much more motivated in the game, while the hosts proved lazy on defense. Good ball movement resulted in a Perovic dunk. Tomasevic connected for Panathinakos after four minutes of scoring only from the line. But Partizan remained in charge of the game. When Novica Velickovic finished a fastbreak, the difference reached double digits (23-33) and Panathinaikos coach Zelimir Obradovic had to call for a timeout. Velickovic dunked in the open court and increased it to 25-37 before Becirovic nailed a three-pointer. Again Partizan found the answer; this time in the paint with Perovic, who scored two buckets to make it 28-41. Nikola Pekovic impressively blocked Becirovic and the visitors went ahead at 30-44. Panathinaikos struggled to create open shots and only scored from the free-throw line. Delk stepped up for the Greens to cut it to 34-46 before the two teams went to the lockers for halftime.
Siskauskas bore offensive responsibility for Panathinaikos with mixed results, as he first nailed a triple, but then missed a jumper. Perovic proved his dominance in the paint drawing fouls and grabbing offensive rebounds as he went 4-for-4 from the line and led Partizan to 37-50. The guests kept feeding the ball inside; Drobnjak went to the free-throw line to make it 38-52. Delk hit a difficult three-pointer at 41-52, but soon Kecman drove to the basket. Obradovic used now four guards together with Tomacevic in the lineup in order to take control of the tempo. Becirovic nailed a triple, but again Kecman found the way for an easy lay-up at 46-58. Delk answered back with 4 straight points to allow Panathinaikos to get closer at 50-58. Tripkovic went to line for three free throws, but Panathinaikos was ready to react. Diamantidis stole the ball twice and the Greens found easy points from the charity with Tomasevic and Diamantidis to make it 56-61. Tepic offered the solution for Partizan, but it was now evident that Panathinaikos was ready to play some tough defense. Cummings made a couple of difficult shots as Partizan held off the hosts’ pressure at 63-69 after 30 minutes.
Tomasevic was charged with technical at the end of the third period and Partizan opened the final quarter with free throws and ball possession. Cummings’s 5 consecutive points made it to 63-74 and restored confidence for Partizan, while slowing down Panathinaikos's enthusiasm. Drobnjak then added 5 points of his own as the guests sailed to a 65-79 advantage, while Pananathinaikos made some bad offensive decisions. Kecman increased it to 67-81. Panathinaikos had only scored from the line at this point in the fourth period. Drobnjak connected again to make it 68-83 with five-and-a-half minutes remaining. When Tripkovic added another triple at 69-86 and Panathinaikos was still searching for its first field goal in the final quarter, the outcome was clear. Partizan sealed the surprise win over the previously unbeaten side at home.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007