Caja Laboral defeated Panathinaikos 77-70
Caja Laboral roared back into the picture in Group E with a 77-70 win over Panathinaikos that puts the two teams tied atop the standings at 2-1. Fernando San Emeterio led a true team effort with 21 points and 4 assists for the winners. Though the Greek champs challenged till the end, San Emeterio iced the game with 2 free throws with 17.9 seconds remaining, a rebound on Panathinaikos's last missed shot and a pass downcourt to Mirza Teletovic for a slam that established the final score. Teletovic added 17 points, Esteban Batista scored 11, David Logan 10 and Pau Ribas had all of his 9 with 3 three-pointers at the end of the third quarter that gave the hosts an important 59-49 cushion with 10 minutes remaining. Dimitris Diamantidis led Panathinaikos with 12 points and 11 assists. Drew Nicholas was the Greens top scorer with 15, Mike Batiste added 14 and Kostas Tsartsaris netted 11. The two teams meet again will sole possession of the top spot on the line in two weeks in the Greek capital.
Defenses prevailed over offenses in the early going, as both teams were unable to find the net on their first attempts. It was Stanko Barac, with a short jumper that ended the drought after two minutes. Panathinaikos decided to look for Batiste in the low post, trying to punish Teletovic inside. The forward tied the game with a hook shot, but the game continued on a low-scoring rhythm. Barac scored again for the hosts off an offensive rebound, but Diamantidis drove inside to get a layup and maintain a balanced score, 4-4, midway through the first quarter. Diamantidis took advantage of a mismatch to nail a three-pointer for the first Green lead of the night, but Caja Laboral reacted immediately with a three by San Emeterio and a fastbreak layup by Teletovic, good for a short 9-7 advantage. The pace of the game increased as Drew Nicholas sunk a three to get Panathinaikos ahead 9-10 with three minutes to go. Logan came up big with back-to-back three pointers right after a timeout, quickly answered by a long range jumper by Kostas Tsarstaris that turned the game into a shootout contest for a while. San Emeterio drove for a layup to give Laboral a 17-12 edge, but Tsartsaris hit again from downtown followed by free throw to reduce the gap to just one point entering the last minute. The line turned to be the only place to add points for both teams at that point, as Logan and Sato hit twice each to close the quarter with Laboral leading 19-18.
Batista opened fire after the break with a hook shoot against Batiste, followed by a short jumper by Teletovic that raised the margin to 5 points. The hosts increased their defensive effort, even though they found some problems securing the boards. Stratos Perperoglu came to the rescue with a couple of free throws, but the lack of accuracy of Panathinaikos’s shooters allowed Teletovic to prevent the guests from getting closer with a fastbreak dunk that forced an urgent timeout by Zeljko Obradovic with the Greens trailing 25-20 after 14 minutes. Diamantidis and Nicholas returned to the court to help Panathinaikos improve its offensive performance, as a full-court pressure on defense stunned the hosts and forced a couple of turnovers that brought the Greens within 27-26 after a three by Tsatsaris. San Emeterio hit a three from the corner to keep his team calm, while Batista capped a great spin move with a left-handed dunk followed by a short jumper by Teletovic that returned a safe margin to the hosts, 34-26, with less than three minutes to go in the half. The Greens didn’t panic, though, as 2 free throws by Batiste and a three off a steal by Diamantidis avoided an early break in the game. San Emeterio hit a difficult shot later, good for a 36-31 Laboral edge, but Batiste and Tepic went to the line to keep Panathinaikos close, 36-33, at halftime.
San Emeterio completed a basket-plus-foul right after the intermission, but Panathinaikos found Tsartsaris and Nicholas to reduce the deficit to just one point two minutes into the quarter. Logan kept Laboral going with a smooth penetration, but Panathinaikos showed a better offensive performance and took the lead back, 41-42, behind back-to-back baskets by Batiste. The Greens couldn’t retain it for long, though, as Caja Laboral went on a 6-0 run behind San Emeterio and Teletovic points. The Greens struggled on offense at that point, unable to found anyone once Batiste was replaced by Ian Vougioukas at center. Nicholas erupted with a long three to wake up Panathiniakos and make it 47-45, as the game had already turned already into a defensive battle at both ends. San Emeterio took over again for the hosts, drawing fouls and adding points from the line, enough for a 50-46 Laboral lead with less than two minutes to go in the quarter. The gap got even bigger after back-to-back threes by Ribas, and even though Batiste and Calathes hit from the line, the guests got a big blow after Ribas stabbed them with another three to close the third quarter with a 10-point advantage for the hosts.
The situation got even worse for the Greens after Batista capped a great move with a basket-plus-foul that gave Laboral a game-high 13-point lead early in the fourth. But the game wasn’t over yet, and Antonis Fotsis came to the rescue with a three, followed by a technical foul called on Batista that allowed Diamantidis to make it 62-54. Panathinaikos decided to switch to a zone defense and Laboral had problems adjusting to it. Diamantidis assisted Batiste to reduce the gap even more, and did it again, this time feeding Nicholas on the fastbreak to bring Panathinaikos within 62-58 with five minutes to go. Laboral remained scoreless for four minutes till Batista took over and fueled local fans with 4 points a row, good for a safe 66-58 advantage. Nicholas beat the buzzer with an incredible three right after a timeout, but the foul bonus allowed Caja Laboral to retain the lead through the free throw line from then on. As such, the hosts led 70-63 with just three minutes to go, showing a great confidence and a very tough defense. Tsartsaris gave Panathinaikos some hope with a three point play to make it 70-66, but despite of a great defensive effort, an offensive rebound allowed Laboral to keep the Greens at safe distance thanks to a couple of free throws by Huertas. Batiste reduced it to 72-68 entering the last minute as Teletovic couldn’t connect, later committing a shot-clock violation that gave the ball to Panathinaikos with 37 seconds to play and a 4-point deficit. But Laboral’s defense took over, preventing the Greens from inbounding the ball and recovering possession. Huertas went to the line for 1 point with 29 seconds to go. Romain Sato went for a jumper to make it 73-70 with just 20 ticks on the clock. San Emeterio didn’t tremble at the line either, adding 2 more points and forcing Panathinaikos to take a risky shot on the following play. Diamantidis missed a three, and Teletovic capped a fastbreak with a dunk that secured the first Top 16 home win for the hosts, 77-70.
Thursday, February 3, 2011