Greens down Zenit for 5th straight at OAKA
Panathinaikos OPAP Athens claimed a solid 96-81 win over shorthanded Zenit St Petersburg at OAKA on Friday night. The hosts dominated 30-8 in the first quarter, but their 13 first-half turnovers allowed Zenit to stay alive and come within 60-55 later in the third. Timely three-pointers by DeShaun Thomas and Tyrese Rice in the final quarter ended up breaking Zenit's resistance and pushing Panathinaikos to its fifth straight home win after two losses on the road. The Greens improved to 14-10 to solidify their sixth-place standing while Zenit dropped to 7-17 alongside FC Bayern Munich in last place. Thomas led the way for the winners with 27 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting and 6 rebounds. Rice and Konstantinos Mitoglou added 15 and 11 points, respectively. Gustavo Ayon posted 21 points and Will Thomas added 10 for Zenit.
Panathinaikos needed less than 4 minutes to build a double-digit lead at 14-3 behind three-pointers by Benjamin Bentil and Andy Rautins and a couple of three-point plays by De Shaun Thomas. The Greens also dominated the glass on both ends, holding Zenit to a single two-point basket for the first 10 minutes, after which Panathinaikos held an impressive 30-11 lead. Zenit went to Will Thomas in the low post before Andrew Albicy canned back-to-back triples to get the visitors as close as 38-30 midway through the second quarter. Then Gustavo Ayon scored 8 points in a row to make it a one-possession game, 42-40. A buzzer-beating nine-meter triple by DeShaun Thomas let Panathinaikos take a 46-40 lead into the locker room. DeShaun Thomas joined Rautins in hitting three-pointers soon after halftime, but Zenit again refused to panic. Ayon scored 6 more points before Evgeny Voronov and Will Thomas trimmed the difference to 60-55, turning the alarms on at OAKA once again. DeShaun Thomas and Rice combined for 7 points then to rescue the Greens and send them on to a 71-60 advantage after 30 minutes. Every attempted escape by Panathinaikos was quickly answered by Zenit. Back-to-back triples by Tim Abromaitis made it 81-71 with 5 minutes remaining, although Rice beat the shot-clock buzzer with a bank shot at 86-73 that started to kill Zenit's hopes. Several turnovers by Zenit followed, so when DeShaun Thomas hit another shot from the arc and Nick Calathes a fastbreak layup, Panathinaikos was up 93-77 with less than 2 minutes left, more than enough to chalk up the victory.
Easy come, easy go
The Greens had a terrific first quarter, scoring 30 points and amassing a 20-point lead very early, but they needed less than 10 minutes to waste it. Gustavo Ayon brought his team back within 42-40 in the second quarter, restarting the game for the second half.
Panathinaikos held the best offensive rebounding team of the competition to just 6 offensive boards, half of what Zenit was averaging so far. The Greens imposed their dominion on both ends, outrebounding Zenit 40-24 to make up for their own 20 turnovers.
DeShaun Thomas fell one point short of his career highs in points and performance index rating, as he had 27 points and a PIR of 30 to become the hero for the Greens. It was not just about how much he contributed, but also when. Thomas showed up in crucial moments exemplified by his buzzer-beating mid-court triple to finish the first half.
Both teams return to Turkish Airlines EuroLeague action in two weeks. Panathinaikos OPAP Athens will play again in front of its fans when it hosts FC Barcelona on Friday, February 21. Zenit St Petersburg will play at home, too, when it welcomes ALBA Berlin the previous evening.
Friday, February 7, 2020