Proving that it can rise to the occasion for big games, Panathinaikos climbed to the top of Top 16 Group F with a dominant 102-82 win over dangerous Winterthur FC Barcelona on Wednesday at the OAKA Olympic Hall in Athens, Greece. Sani Becirovic led six Greens in double figures in points with a season-high 24 as Panathinaikos improved to 2-0 in the group. Barca dropped to 1-1 and will share second place in the group with the winner of Thursday's game between Efes Pilsen and Prokom Trefl. The Greek champs dominated inside – winning the battle of the boards 32-19 – and outside – making an incredible 15 of 29 three-pointers. Panathinaikos raced out to a 32-15 lead after 10 minutes, improved that to 20 by halftime and made it stand up the rest of the way. Dimitrios Diamantidis added 17 points, 7 assists and 4 steals, Dejan Tomasevic posted 13 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, while Ramunas Siskauskas, Nikos Chatzivrettas and Mike Batiste finished with 11 points each. For Barcelona, Juan Carlos Navarro had 21 points and a career-best 9 assists, Jordi Trias chipped in 16 points and 7 assists – both personal bests – while Michail Kakiouzis added 13 points and Roger Grimau 11.
After tipoff, Panathinaikos burst in front on an open triple by Diamantidis, which Navarro followed with one of his own for Barcelona. Going against his former team, Jaka Lakovic was hit with 2 personal fouls in barely a minute and had to sit. Navarro was on fire, though, and with a drive and a long jumper put the guests up 6-7. Dikoudis next unleashed 6 points in the paint as the Greens restored a 14-11 advantage. The scoring pace got even faster as, moments later, Becirovic swished open back-to-back three-pointers following goot Panathinaikos ball movement as the hosts raced ahead 22-15. There were still 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the quarter, and Panathinaikos continued to step on the gas. After a Barcelona timeout, Becirovic was at it again, downing another pair of open triples with which the Greens doubled their guests on the scoreboard on the way to an astounding 32-15 lead after 10 minutes.
Batiste kept Panathinaikos charging ahead in the second quarter and helped assure Barcelona's struggles, especially on the boards, where the hosts were dominating all rebounds. With only a shot per possession at most, Barcelona could not score for 3 minutes until Navarro finally found the basket. Batiste demoralized the guests even more with a follow-up dunk, and despite Barcelona's switch to a full-court press, Panathinaikos kept galloping. The Greens scored at will in the paint as Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris with more dunks combined on 6 points as the lead hit 46-26. Roko-Leni Ukic nailed a triple for Barcelona, but Panathinaikos kept sailing to an emphatic 51-31 advantage at halftime, by which time Barcelona had only 5 rebounds.
Siskauskas got the scoreboard rolling in the second half with a corner triple and then Tomasevic scored on a slippery post move. Navarro was unwilling to go down without a fight and looked determined to redeem Barcelona, but with his team's rebounding nonexistent, Panathinaikos kept roaring and blew the game open. With the Greens playing the passing game that made Barcelona seem not to be playing defense, Becirovic loaded up for his fifth triple to cap a 7-0 run that boosted the margin to 64-37. Barcelona finally answered with a 0-9 burst in which Grimau scored 6 points, and with point differences in mind, Panathinaikos took a timeout. Barcelona had plenty of time left and was trying hard to turn the tide in its favor, but back-to-back triples by Chatzivrettas and Milos Vujanic helped the Greens retain a commanding lead, 74-58, after 30 minutes.
Early in the final period, Grimau scored a long jumper to show that nothing was over yet. Tomasevic grabbed his fifth offensive rebound and fed Chatzivrettas for a triple from the corner that gave Panathinaikos a 78-60 advantage. Barcelona head coach Dusko Ivanovic stayed with a zone defense as Panathinaikos seemed less accurate from beyond the arc than in the first half. With poor rebounding its a riddle without an answer, however, Barcelona was unable to cut significantly into the difference. A one-handed dunk by Tomasevic and a decisive triple by Diamantidis widened the gap to 85-67 before Navarro got stripped of the ball by Diamantidis and committed an intentional foul. Diamanatidis hit both free throws and then Becirovic buried another triple to seal the blowout outcome. The Panathinaikos fans celebrated until a last Diamantidis triple put their team over 100 points to cap a great offensive show that also left the Greens fully in charge of Group F.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007