The first game of the 2005-06 Euroleague Basketball season belonged to one of the protagonists of the last decade, Panathinaikos, a 66-82 winner on the road against Ulker. The pomp and spectacle of the first game brought out a noisy sellout crowd of 12,000 at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, but they could not overcome the better depth of Panathinaikos as measured against the injury-plagued Ulker roster, whose sharpshooting captain, Ibrahim Kutluay, could not play due to ankle troubles. Jaka Lakovic led the winners with 19 points, Mike Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris each had 10 points while Vassilis Spanoulis dished 7 assists for Panathinaikos. Jeff Trepagnier led Ulker with 18 points and 4 steals, Mirsad Turkcan added 14 points and 8 rebounds, newcomer Jerome Beasley had 13 points on 4 of 4 two-pointers while Omer Onan scored 12 for the hosts. Panathinaikos took charge in the first half, using a 2-11 run in which Lakovic stroke twice from downtown to get a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter, as the Greens used strong defense and a patient offense to lead 32-45 at halftime. Lakovic and Batiste shined right after the break, as Panathinaikos used great shot selection to boost its margin to 49-66 at the end of the third quarter. Ulker used a 2-3 zone defense to cut its deficit to 60-70, but Dimitris Diamantidis and Tsartsaris stepped up to seal the outcome.
Vrbica Stefanov had the honor of scoring the first basket of the 2005-06 Euroleague with a running layup that turned into a three-point play. Tsartsaris tied with one shot, however, and Batiste stole and dunked to give Panathinaikos its first lead, 3-5. Omer Onan changed the lead for Ulker with his own basket-plus-foul, making it 6-5. Batiste answered with a short jumper, but Trepagnier fired back with a second-chance tip-in. Ulker dominated the defensive boards, with Turkcan excelling as usual. He also hit a five-meter baseline jumper to keep Ulker in charge, 10-9. A very active Batiste fed Dejan Tomasevic for an easy layup, but Ulker found a go-to guy in Trepagnier, who followed a driving layup with free throws to give Ulker a 14-11 lead after 7 minutes. But then Nikos Hatzivrettas worked in the paint for two points, igniting a 0-6 run which Lakovic capped with a fastbreak basket, his first , for a 14-17 Panathinaikos lead. Turkcan scored inside, but Hatzivrettas immediately fired back in the other end while Alvertis nailed a corner three-pointer to give the Greens a 16-22 lead at the end of a first quarter which saw as many as 9 lead changes.
Newly-signed Ernest Brown, who just arrived to Ulker over the weekend, scored inside to open fire in the second quarter, as Ulker switched to a 2-3 zone defense which Diamantidis immediately punished with a big triple. A very active Brown woke up Ulker, while Trepagnier nailed a three from the top of the key to get the hosts within 21-25. Diamantidis kept the Greens alive with a close basket, as Ulker put its new frontcourt duo, Brown and Beasley, together for the first time, while Panathinaikos had used 10 players already. Beasley followed free throws with a short jumper to get Ulker back into the game at 25-27. Femerling fired back with an uncontested layup, while Batiste found Dimitris Papanikolaou for a corner three. It was the start of a 0-8 run which Lakovic capped with a corner three from exactly the same spot. Beasley tried to change things with a high-flying layup, but Lakovic fired in another one from downtown to give the Greens their biggest lead so far, 27-38, after a 2-11 run. Ulker struggled in both ends now, while Lakovic fed Batiste for a two-handed dunk which silenced the crowd. Turkcan came off the baseline for a layup, but Tsartsaris and Lakovic combined for 5 free throws to give the Greens a 32-45 margin at halftime.
Spanoulis scored his first basket right after the break, as Ulker improved its defense, carried on having troubles in offense even when Onan slashed for a floating layup. A 24-second violation brought the Ulker fans in the standings back into the game, helping Ulker to keep its aggressivity. It didn't last long, as Panathinaikos found a go-to guy in Lakovic - who else? - who fired in his third triple and followed it with an uncontested layup which made it a 18-point game, 34-52. Trepagnier tried to get Ulker back in track with free throws, but Papanikolaou stroke again from downtown for a 36-55 Green margin. Beasley showed its talent with a turnaround jumper which Trepagnier followed with a three-point play to bring Ulker within 41-55. Panathinaikos was not in a rush, using long possessions with excellent ball circulation. Papanikolaou scored inside and Batiste added a left-handed jump hook to keep the Greens way ahead, 41-59, after 28 minutes. Ulker lacked concentration in both ends, while Fragiskos Alvertis nailed his trademark corner three for a new game-high lead at 41-62. Turkcan nailed a three, Beasley found a basket-plus-foul and Onan beat the buzzer with a bank shot, but Ulker still trailed 49-66 after 30 minutes.
Ulker fired up the crowd early in the fourth quarter, as Stefanov scored in penetration and Trepagnier immediately had a huge block on Hatzivrettas in the other end. The hosts has already switched back to zone defense late in the third quarter while Onan nailed a three to bring Ulker within 54-66, after a 10-2 run. Spanoulis got Panathinaikos back in track with a layup which a red hot Onan matched in the other end. Tsartsaris silenced the crowd with a two-handed slam, but Ulker was now on fire and Turkcan fired in a six-meter jumper to keep the hosts' hopes alive at 58-70. Panathinaikos called a much-needed timeout, but Turkcan brought Ulker even closer at 60-70 with 5 minutes to go. The guests went scoreless for more than 3 minutes until Diamantidis stepped up with a catch-and-shoot layup which Tsartsaris followed with another easy basket to put the victory on ice, 60-74, with under 4 minutes remaining. Ulker could not overcome its deficit, while Lakovic made a nine-meter bomb at the buzzer, helping Panathinaikos to register its first Euroleague win of the season in style.
Monday, October 31, 2005