Not in our house! That message came through loud and clear in Group B on Wednesday as a proud Panathinaikos stopped previously undefeated Skipper Bologna 75-64 in Athens. With forward Kostas Tsartsaris leading a turnaround in the second quarter, the Greens took control and never looked back to even their record at 1-1, the same as Skipper, which had not lost in 9 previous games in Italy and the Euroleague. Nikos Hatzivrettas led the winners with 19 points, while Tsartsaris had 14 and 7 rebounds. Fragiskos Alvertis chipped in 12 points and Darryl Middleton 11 for the winners. Skipper was led by Gianluca Basile with 13 points, but the Panathinaikos defense held Milos Vujanic to 11 on 2-for-11 shooting. Carlos Delfino and Stefano Mancinelli added 12 points each for Skipper, which was beaten on the boards 34-24 despite Panathiankos playing a small lineup much of the night.
Panathinaikos opened the scoring with a free throw by Darryl Middleton, but Skipper refused to cede homecourt advantage to the Greens. Small forward Carlos Delfino used speed and excellent moves to score 6 consecutive points to which Hanno Mottola added a basket for 1-8 Skipper lead after 4 minutes. Panathinaikos tried to react and cut the margin to 6-8, but the visitors dominated in all key points of the game. Better passing, more shot distribution and superiority under the boards pushed Skipper ahead 6-14 as big man Thomas Van Den Spiegel joined the scoring. Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic was obliged to make adjustements, and in came Tsartsaris for Middleton and Nikos Hatzivrettas replaced Arriel McDonald. With two fresh players on the court, the Greens played better defense, especially in transition, and saw a better variety of shots at the offensive end. As such, Panathinaikos limited the damage to a 10-16 deficit after 10 minutes.
The second quarter saw Panathinaikos step up and show its true stuff. Mike Batiste sank a three-pointer for a 17-17 tie and Fragiskos Alvertis hit his own bomb for the Greens' first true lead, 20-17. In the middle of it all was Tsartsaris, pushing the hosts on both defense and offense until they had a 14-3 run. Skipper coach Jasmin Repesa tried to answer with his weapons, but Panathinaikos kept its good momentum going and, with Tsartsaris going up to 10 points, increased the margin to 33-27 after 19 minutes. Part of the Greens' success was in silencing Milos Vujanic, who scored his very first point just 40 seconds before the end of the first half. That was enough to keep Skipper from falling further behind, but the visitors were staring at the wrong end of a 35-29 score as they headed to the lockers after 20 minutes.
After halftime, despite the fourth personal foul for Middleton and a third committed by Tsartsaris, not to mention an injury to Batiste, Panathinaikos didn't lose either concentration or control. With Alvertis at power forward and three perimeter players on the court - Giorgios Kalaitzis, Hatzivrettas and McDonald - the Greens widened the margin to 40-32. Vujanic managed to hit his first three-pointer in six attempts, good for 40-35, but the Greens continued to push. Hatzivrettas made a spectacular dunk that made it 44-35,after 25 minutes, and that was just the start of the explosion. Playing with small forward Dimitri Papanikolaou at center, Obradovic saw his team defend, run and score at high spped. When Skipper tried a zone defense, Kalaitzis and Hatzivrettas punished it with three-pointers for a 52-38 scoreboard. At the end of the third period, the Greens led by 16 points, 58-42, delivering spectacular plays to their supporters with a short lineup that Skipper struggled to stop.
By the beggining of the fourth quarter, Panathinaikos had opened up a 19-point difference, 61-42. Only then did Skipper start to breath again. Delfino returned with a dunk, igniting a 12-5 run by the visitors to within 66-54 with 6 minutes left. The 38-year-old Middleton, going against 19-year-old Erazem Lorbek in the paint, scored for 68-54. Despite Vujanic now scoring, Skipper was far from threatening victory. The visitors turned their denense to man-to-man, but it was too late for dramatic changes. Hatzivrettas continued to score easily, and as such, Panathinaikos had no problem registering its first 2003-04 Euroleague win to a standing ovation from their fans.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Vassilis Skountis, Athens