Unics Kazan stunned Panathinaikos 83-89
Unics Kazan put its name among the contenders to reach the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs by taking down defending champion Panathinaikos 83-89 on the road in Athens on Wednesday to seize first place in Group G of the Top 16. Unics won its fifth road game out of six this season and its eighth game overall out of the last nine to go 2-1 in the group, while Panathinaikos dropped into a 1-1 tie for second place with Fenerbahce Ulker. A 4-15 run that ended with a Henry Domercant triple early in the final quarter gave Unics the game's first double-digit lead, which held at 76-87 with 48 seconds left before Panathinaikos trimmed points down the stretch. The victory, however, went back to Russia thanks to 21 points from Domercant, 16 from Terrell Lyday and 15 from Vladimir Veremeenko. For Panathinaikos, Mike Batiste tallied 16 points, Steven Smith 15 and Dimitris Diamantidis 14, but the Greens allowed a Euroleague opponent at OAKA the most points in the regulation 40 minutes in 5 years and 1 day, since Partizan won there 80-93 on January 24, 2007.
Diamantidis found Smith in the corner for a triple to open the scoring, but Alexey Savrasenko answered with a hook off the backboard for Unics. Romain Sato cutting baseline put Panathinaikos up 5-2, but there the perfect shooting stopped and defenses dominated until Batiste's spin move finished a fastbreak. When Diamantidis added his first basket, Unics called timeout, down 9-2, and soon used Domercant to get back on the scoreboard. Panathinaikos got a triple in transition from Diamantidis at 12-6. Domercant put on his own great spin move, but Kostas Tsartsaris waltzed untouched for a layup in response. Domercant's first triple put Unics within 14-9 before Ian Vougioukas joined the Panathinaikos scorers. He soon doubled a pair of Unics free throws with a dunk and a put-back. Unics needed scoring help and got some from Lynn Greer, with a jumper and free throws, while Kostas Kaimakoglou fed Nick Calathes for a Panathinaikos layup. But with a second-chance and 0.9 seconds left, Unics called a timeout and found Mike Wilkinson for a short jumper and a morale-boosting 22-17 score after 10 minutes.
Unics came out smoking for the second quarter, with Greer converting a steal before Kelly McCarty swished an open fastbreak triple for a 22-22 tie. Kaimakoglou's step-back shot saved the Panathinaikos lead - but not for long. After Batiste and Veremeenko traded free throws, Bostjan Nachbar appeared to knock down his first shot, a triple, for the visitors' first lead, 26-27. After a Panathinaikos timeout, McCarty matched him to make it 26-30, a 4-13 run for the guests. Jasikevicius answered with a short jumper followed by a game-tying slam from Batiste, but a second-chance layup from McCarty and Lyday's first basket, stepping on the three-point line, forced another Panathinaikos timeout at 30-34. Sato's offensive rebound led to a triple from Diamantidis, while Batiste's steal sprung David Logan for a go-ahead layup at 35-34. Domercant re-took the lead with a fall-back jumper over Diamantidis, but Batiste changed the scoreboard again with a baseline dunk as the teams roared toward halftime trading punches. Lyday landed the next one, from the arc, putting Unics up 37-39, and when Vougioukas downed a shot, Domercant answered falling down. But Smith, who got the half started, also had the last word, spinning in a pick-and-roll basket as Panathinaikos clung to a 42-41 halftime edge.
Lyday went high off the backboard and Veremeenko spun for a slam as Unics came back strong after halftime. When Domercant hit 2 of 3 free throws, the visitors had a 44-47 advantage. Next, Lyday threaded a very Panathinaikos-like pick-and-roll pass to Veremeenko for a layup, after which the Unics defense forced a 24-second violation on the Greens. Only a layup by Calathes fell in during the next 2-plus minutes until Batiste came out of a timeout for a three-point play to tie it, 49-49. Yet another spin move, by Petr Samoylenko, kept Unics ahead. Kaimakoglou changed that with an open triple, but Samoylenko answered back with a layup. Free throws by Veremeenko preceded him taking a fantastic pass from Lyday for the biggest Unics lead yet, 53-58. It would get bigger, too, despite a reverse by Calathes, as Domercant downed a basket and fed the open Savrasenko for another to take Unics into the final quarter with a 56-63 lead.
Almost 2 minutes and as many airballs by Panathinaikos passed before Domercant buried a triple for a shocking 10-point Unics lead, 56-66, to open the fourth quarter. Smith got 2 points back at the foul line, and then converted his team's second straight offensive rebound into a triple from the corner at 61-66. But next it was Wilkinson's offensive board that became a three-point play. Smith answered with a reverse, but Lyday matched him for a 63-71 scoreboard. Smith drove for another layup, but on another second-chance possession, Samoylenko struck from downtown to make it 65-74 with under 5 minutes to play. A potential game-breaker came next on a seemingly errant pass, as a foul compounded by a technical on Sarunas Jasikeicius put Veremeenko and Lyday on the line for 4 consecutive free throws to make it 65-78. Under 4 minutes were left by the time Logan and Smith trimmed 3 free throws off the difference, but Lyday got all 3 back on a great fall-down layup at 68-81. A fullcourt press got Panathinaikos a pair of quick baskets, but Lyday answered with a jumper at 72-83 with under 2 minutes left. The win looked assured for Unics, but both teams were going strong with the point difference in mind, which Panathinaikos was able to do in the final minute, cutting the gap to 6 while looking ahead to a tough trip to Kazan, Russia next month.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012