Panathinaikos, the team that would like to be Final Four host on its own court, assured itself two more games there - if needed - by rolling to a 95-68 home win over Prokom Trefl Sopot to clinch first place in Top 16 Group F. By winning the group, Panathinaikos will have homecourt advantage in the best two-out-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs. The Greens raised their record to 5-0 while dropping already-eliminated Prokom to 1-4. A superb first half both in offense and defense allowed the Greens to pull away by 47-28 at the break, and they never looked back after that. Demos Dikoudis paced the winners in scoring with 19 points while Dimitris Diamantidis added 13 and Milos Vujanic had 11 for the Greens. Every player on Panathinaikos played at least 8 minutes and scored at least 2 points. For Prokom, Rashid Atkins had 15 points and Jasmin Hukic added 12.
Early in the game Panathinaikos chose to feed the ball inside and this decision proved wise, as Tsartsaris got the scoreboard rolling with 4 quick points. Prokom came out and missed its first 3 shots, yet it wasn't long before Michael Andersen and Jasmin Hukic ignited a 0-7 run. The hosts looked rather lethargic and when Tomas Masiulis made it 4-9 midway the quarter, head coach Zeljko Obradovic called for a timeout in order to awaken his players. Dimitris Diamantidis responded with a triple, only for Donatas Slanina to sink one of his own for Prokom. Panathinaikos steadied itself, however, and soon Batiste tied the game at 12. Rashad Atkins scored on a flashy lay-up, but Tsartsaris replied with a spin move before Diamantidis drove to the basket to restore a 16-14 advantage for the Greens. Now, Prokom was facing trouble against the stifling defense of the hosts, while on the other end Dikoudis scored a three-point play to give the Greens a 21-16 lead after 10 minutes.
The second quarter got underway with Christian Dalmau launching in a three-pointer and then veteran Adam Wojcik hitting an open lay-up for the visitors from Poland. Dikoudis was not willing to slow down though, and added 4 points to his tally that kept Panathinaikos ahead 26-21. While Huseyin Besok and Dalmau missed, Dejan Tomacevic joined Dikoudis and allowed the hosts to forge a double-digit lead, 33-21, forcing a Prokom timeout. During that span Dikoudis was nearly unstoppable, having already scored 14 points on an array of dunks, drives and jump shots. After the timeout, Dalmau loaded his three-point pistol and connected from beyond the arc, yet Panathinaikos stepped on the gas and used a 9-0 run to boost the margin to 42-24 with 2:30 left until intermission. With the hosts scoring at will and clamping down on defense, Prokom was clearly in trouble and fell behind 47-28 at halftime.
The second half commenced with Atkins hitting free throws that Milos Vujanic bettered with a triple. The game pace picked up with Panathinaikos marching into back-to-back transition plays, whereas Prokom found a go-to-guy in Atkins, who scored 5 consecutive points. After another timeout, Hukic buried a triple in an effort to put Prokom back into the game. Vujanic thought otherwise and scored from the arc to emphatically show who was in charge, widening the gap to 59-40. As long as the guests kept misfiring from downtown - making only 5 of 18 triples until them - the game was under control for the Greens, who held the tempo and the fate of the game in their hands. The guests were unable to change much as the third quarter ended 71-51.
Even though Atkins and Hukic scored on either side of a rare hook shot by Panathinaikos captain Fragiskos Alvertis and cut the difference to 73-55 early in the final quarter, Nikos Chatzivrettas stepped up and ignited a 7-0 spurt to put any hopes of a Prokom comeback out of reach. Instead of folding, Atkins fired in a triple and a free throw, yet Dikoudis and Batiste organized a slam dunk party in the paint extending the lead to 83-62. Then, it was Alvertis's turn to bring the crowd to its feet when he unleashed his trademark three-pointer. In the waning minutes both teams embarked on some run-and-gun fun, as Panathinaikos galloped to a resounding 95-68 victory that allowed them to make plans for the quarterfinals.
Thursday, March 15, 2007