The return of Dejan Bodiroga to Athens made for some sizzling basketball in Group B on Wednesday before his old team, Panathinaikos, prevailed by 87-71 against his current one, Lottomatica Roma. The Greens remain undefeated at 4-0 and in first place in the group, while Roma dropped to 1-3. Mike Batiste led five Panathinaikos scorers in double figures with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Sani Becirovic added 15 and Ramunas Siskauskas 14. Kostas Tsartsaris finished with 12 and Nikos Chatzivrettes 10 with Dimitris Diamantidis dishing 6 assists. Bodiroga led Roma with a game-high 17, Vlado Ilievski added 16 and center Ognjen Askrabic was good for 13. Bodiroga was treated like returning royalty before the game by Panathinaikos and its fans, but he showed them why they always loved him by helping Roma take first-half leads of up to 9 points. Siskauskas gave the Greens the lead for good with a triple just before the halftime break and two shortly after it, but Roma challenged until very late.
Tsartsaris was the only man who found himself in the opening minutes, scoring all the points as the hosts took a 5-0 run. Roma got on the board with two easy baskets on the offensive glass by Askrabic and David Hawkins, but Chatzivrettes finished a fast break at 9-4. Bodiroga first dished a nice assist to Loukas Mavrokefalidis and then scored to bring Roma within one point. Tsartsaris remained hot, putting in 4 more points to make it 13-8. The visitors had trouble creating open shots, while Panathinaikos was able to score in transition. Ilievski's first points from the line made it 15-10 and later Hawkins grabbed an offensive rebound – Roma’s 4th so far - and posted a basket-plus-free-throw to bring the visitors within 4. Ilievski and Bodiroga drove to the basket to tie the game at 18-18, before Ilievski's perimeter jumper capped a 0-9 run to give Roma an 18-20 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Bodiroga made a difficult fadeaway jumper over Diamantidis to start the second period, but Dejan Tomasevic connected from the line to end Panathinaikos's scoring drought. Bodiroga was in the zone, as he nailed a triple from downtown to put Lottomatica up 19-25. Tony Delk chipped in a jumper, but Ilievski answered from behind the arc and Bodiroga dunked on the fast break to make it 21-30, causing coach Zelimir Obradovic to call for a timeout. Five free throws from Chatzivrettas, Dimos Dikoudis and Delk allowed Panathinaikos to cut into the deficit. Dimitris Marmarinos scored with a base line hook shot, but Tomasevic took revenge on the other side to score a basket-plus-foul at 28-32. Mike Batiste and Askrabic exchanged baskets before Becirovic and Bodiroga copied them not letting the difference change at 32-36. However, Chatzivrettas made two free throws and Siskauskas nailed a three-pointer as Panathinaikos managed to close the gap and retake the lead at halftime, 37-36.
Mavrokefalidis dished a nice assist to Askrabic to start the second half, but soon was whistled his fourth personal foul. Roma coach Jasmin Repesa decided to try a zone defense in order to protect his big men from committing fouls. Siskauskas punished the zone with a triple to make it 43-38, but Askrabic again connected in the paint to get Roma within 3. Diamantidis and Delk took advantage of the open court for easy layups. Askrabic tried to hold Roma close, but Siskauskas, Batiste and Tsartsaris found easy points in the paint to bring it to 52-44. Batiste and Delk found room for short-range jumpers too as the lead grew to 11. Ilievski chipped in a triple to bring Roma to 56-48. Batiste sent the margin to double digits again before Luca Garri’s triple left things open at 58-51 at the end of the third quarter.
Garri brought Roma even closer and then Alex Righetti nailed a jumper from the corner to cut it to 58-55, but then Panathinaikos went to the line and got 3 points. Good ball-movement by the visitors resulted in a nice triple by Righetti that made it 61-58, but that was as close as it would get. Becirovic answered with a three and Batiste added a jumper for an 8-point lead. Both teams decided to play with four perimeter players in their lineups with Siskauskas and Bodiroga at power forward for Panathinaikos and Roma respectively. Diamantidis and Bodiroga exchanged baskets at 68-62. Siskauskas and Becirovic were accurate from the line to built a double-digit-difference at 72-62 with 3:40 still to play. Roma was not ready to surrender, though. Ilievski nailed a triple and Hawkins a layup to bring it to 72-67 within seconds. Siskauskas reacted, but Hawkins did the same; as a result the scoreboard stood at 74-69. Becirovic and Chatzivrettas went to the line once again and gave Panathinaikos a 77-69 advantage. When Diamantidis scored a difficult triple as the shot-clock expired, the game was essentially over and all that was left was for the fans to give a warm standing ovation to both its team and for one last time to former star Bodiroga.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006