Madrid finishes strong to hold off Panathinaikos
Real Madrid held off a stirring comeback from Panathinaikos OPAP Athens to record a thrilling 75-72 home victory in the opening game of their playoffs series in the Spanish capital. Madrid was in front nearly all night and led by 14 early in the third quarter, but the Greens did not give up and roared in front 66-72 with 4 minutes left. Madrid rallied to finish strong and take the victory when DeShaun Thomas missed the chance to force overtime near the final buzzer. Jeffery Taylor paced the winners with 13 points, Fabien Causeur scored 12 and Walter Tavares combined 8 points with 8 rebounds. Nick Calathes recovered from a slow start to lead all scorers with 17 points for the Greens and Thomas added 12 while Ian Vougoiukas paired 10 points and 6 rebounds. The teams will meet again for Game 2 in Madrid on Friday.
With former Madrid star Luka Doncic watching in the crowd, neither team scored in the first 2 minutes before Taylor got Madrid moving with a pair of triples. Panathinaikos needed nearly 4 minutes to score before Thomas netted from mid-range. Taylor and Tavares dunked, then Taylor added another triple, but Madrid was held to 21-17 at the end of the first quarter after a pair of baskets from Vougioukas and a buzzer-beating jumper from Keith Langford. A couple of fadeaways from Langford kept Panathinaikos close, before Calathes and Sean Kilpatrick scored from deep to make it 32-31. Causeur scored 6 straight points for Madrid and Trey Thompkins made a corner triple as the home team went ahead 43-35 at the break after Facundo Campazzo drove to beat the buzzer off the glass.
Taylor, Tavares and Causeur all scored from close range early in the third to open a 49-35 lead, with Panathinaikos only scoring one basket in the first 4 minutes of the half. A pair of three-pointers from Ioannis Papapetrou made it a single-digit game, but Causeur protected Madrid’s lead with a couple of floaters. Langford's mid-range strike capped a 0-6 run, helping to make it 58-52 at the end of the third. Deep strikes from Jaycee Carroll and Klemen Prepelic kept Madrid ahead early in the final period, but Calathes scored twice and Vougioukas netted a floater to force Madrid into timeout at 64-61. Calathes and Thomas struck from deep for Panathinaikos's first lead, 64-67. A Calathes layup completed a 0-13 run and he soon hit another three-pointer for a 66-72 lead. Rudy Fernandez stopped the rot by scoring from beyond the arc and after 2 and a half minutes without scoring, free throws from Campazzo and Carroll made it 73-72 with 54 seconds left. Langford’s jumper rimmed out, Campazzo's free throws stretched the lead to 3 and Thomas could not sink a deep strike as Madrid held on.
Calathes subdued…at first
Madrid’s defense initially did a great job of subduing Panathinaikos playmaker Nick Calathes. The league's assists leader registered only 1 in the first half, during which time he also shot 1 of 8 from the field and committed 2 fouls, giving him a PIR of minus-2 at the break. But Calathes sparked to life in the final quarter, orchestrating his team’s stunning comeback with a flurry of baskets. He scored 12 of his 17 points in the final period, but finished with just 4 assists – his lowest since Round 9.
Taylor boosts Madrid
Jeffery Taylor gave Madrid a big early boost. He scored the first 8 points for his team, eventually netting 11 points in the first quarter on 3-of-5 three-point shooting. Taylor went out of the game with the scoreline at 14-8, having scored 11 of those points. He also opened the second half scoring with a big dunk before being forced out with 3 fouls, but returned to add important defense near the end.
Vougioukas steps up
Taylor wasn’t the only unexpected heavy scorer in the early going: Panathinaikos big man Ian Vougioukas also had a big impact, registering 7 points and 3 rebounds in his first 6 minutes on the floor. He also played a key role in his team’s fourth-quarter comeback, recording 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 fouls drawn during the 0-13 run which threatened to change the game.
Lekavicius forced out
With Calathes struggling deep into the second half, Panathinaikos Coach Rick Pitino was denied an option to relieve him when Lukas Lekavicius suffered a badly cut face in an accidental collision with Fabien Causeur. Blood was pouring down the face of the Lithuanian point guard as he headed into the locker room and he was unable to play any further part.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019