Montepaschi, a comeback 79-84 road winner over Panathinaikos
Montepaschi Siena stunned Panathinaikos 79-84 on Thursday at the Athens Indoor Olympic Hall to even their best-of-five Quarterfinal Series at 1-1. The visitors shook off major foul trouble to their frontcourt and rallied from a 16-point third quarter deficit thanks to a tremendous effort from the backcourt of Terrell McIntyre and Rimantas Kaukenas, who combined for 46 points and 7 assists. The series now heads to Siena for Game 3 and 4. Game 5 – if needed – would be in Athens. Montepaschi’s chances took an early hit when starting center Ben Eze was saddled with 3 early fouls. But Tomas Ress stepped up with 9 first-quarter points to keep the visitors in the picture. McIntyre kept the Italian champs going and Ksistof Lavrinovic came on despite a broken hand. Vassilis Spanoulis and Mike Batiste helped Panathinaikos take control, but Montepaschi remained within 43-38 at halftime. The Greens made their move in the third quarter, climbing to 58-42 on a point from Nikola Pekovic and a Sarunas Jasikevicius triple, however Kaukenas fired up Montepaschi to give hope for a fourth-quarter comeback. And Montepaschi continued to battle and claw away as the McIntyre-Kaukenas duo answered the call and led their team to a series tying victory. McIntyre finished with 24 points and 4 assists, Kaukenas added 22 points and 4 steals and Lavrinovic posted 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals in 16 minutes. Batiste led the Greek champs with 16 points, Drew Nicholas and Pekovic added 13 each, Spanoulis scored 11, Jasikevicius had 11 points and 5 assists and Antonis Fotsis grabbed 10 rebounds.
The game started with Batiste and Kaukenas exchanging free throws for the opening points. Soon Nicholas swished a triple to give Panathinaikos a 7-3 lead. The visitors faced trouble inside when center Eze took a seat with 3 early fouls, but McIntyre responded with tough back-to-back layups and Ress dunked off a Shaun Stonerook pass as Siena went ahead 8-9. With the score 10-11 and six minutes into the game, Panathinaikos captain Dimitris Diamantidis checked in and the crowd exploded. A few possessions later, Pekovic worked his way into the paint and scored a layup, only to be bettered by Ress’s triple. Then Kaukenas knocked down a jumper and Ress boosted the margin to 15-20. Pekovic hit only one from the charity stripe and Ress grabbed a huge offensive rebound that allowed McIntyre to slash to the basket and keep the guests firmly ahead, 16-22. Panathinaikos scored once again from the free-throw line, but on the other end Siena gobbled another offensive rebound – its sixth of the game – en route to an 18-24 advantage that was sliced by Fotsis’s triple at the buzzer.
Fotsis swatted away Romain Sato’s attempt to score and then Nicholas unleashed a bomb from downtown to bring the fans to their feet and tie the game at 24. Lavrinovic entered the game, but it was Kaukenas who got Siena going in the second quarter with a triple. The hot-handed Nicholas answered for the Greens on the next possession. Morris Finley stepped up with a drive before Batiste hit a jumper and later Spanoulis drained a three-pointer to make it 32-29 halfway through the quarter. The game was turning into a battle of epic proportions, however an unsportsmanlike foul by Henry Domercant helped the Greens build a 36-29 advantage. McIntyre scored in penetration and then nailed a triple as the guests closed the gap to 36-34. Spanoulis copied him on the other end and then Diamantidis’s defensive effort led to a basket by Pekovic for a 41-34 lead. Spanoulis and Marco Carraretto misfired from beyond the arc, but the former hit later on a couple of free throws to keep Panathinaikos in the driver’s seat. Fotsis reached high to reject Stonerook, but Siena’s forward saved the last word of the first half for himself as he finished the break with authority to bring the guests within 43-38.
Pekovic scored in the paint after the break and Stratos Perperoglou sandwiched McIntyre’s basket with a buzzer-beating triple to make it 47-40. Panathinaikos began to look more focused and Spanoulis shined with a driving layup that caused coach Pianigiani to use a timeout. However Nicholas extended the run to 7-0 and after Domercant’s three-point shot failed to ignite Siena’s comeback, Pekovic stepped up with 4 more points to break the game open, 55-40. The guests had trouble finding their rhythm on offense and they were held scoreless for more than five minutes until Kaukenas finally nailed 2 from the charity stripe. Jasikevicius upped the ante with a triple, however Kaukenas responded with 4 quick points, Lavrinovic scored off an offensive rebound and Carraretto drove in transition to cap a rather unexpected 0-8 spurt that cut the lead to 58-50. Jasikevicius picked up the scoring slack with a jumper, but Lavrinovic and Stonerook brought Siena within 61-55 to give the visitors hope for the fourth quarter.
Batiste opened the fourth quarter with 2 free throws, but Lavrinovic came up big with a triple that pulled Siena within 63-60. Perperoglou answered from beyond the arc, but as Carraretto knocked down a jumper it was obvious that the outcome of the game could go either way. Jasikevicius scored in transition only to see the backcourt tandem of McIntyre and Kaukenas turn it on and close the gap to 70-69 with 5:22 left to play. After a Panathinaikos timeout, Kaukenas first intercepted Spanoulis’s pass and found Sato and who scored on a layup to silence the crowd. Pekovic failed to punish the guests in the paint and what followed was another layup by Kaukenas. Nicholas hit a tough off-balanced jumper to end the guests’ 0-9 run, but Eze got a huge offensive rebound for a 72-77 advantage. Fotsis split a pair of free throws, McIntyre turned the ball over but Kaukenas came to stop Panathinaikos's fast break attempt and on the other end Lavrinovic unleashed a monster one-handed slam for a 73-79 Siena lead. In the waning minute of the game and with the score at 75-81, the guests capitalized on the fact that Panathinaikos had committed only 2 fouls and nibbled away at the clock to escape from OAKA with a crucial, morale-boosting away victory.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Epameinondas Tsakalos, Athens