Baskonia moves up with super shooting
TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz continued to push its candidacy for the playoffs with an 82-97 victory over host Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Tuesday in the Greek capital. Its fourth consecutive win and ninth in the last 10 games pushed Baskonia to 18-14, good for at least a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot at the end of Round 32. Panathinaikos, already eliminated from the playoffs race, fell to 10-20. A 2-14 Baskonia run bridging halftime broke the game open at 43-58, letting the visitors protect a big lead for the rest of the game. Rokas Giedraitis led Baskonia with 25 points, including 18 in the second half Achille Polonara hit his first 5 three-pointers en route to 22 points and 11 rebounds. Zoran Dragic added 22, as well, in 21 minutes off the bench. For Panathinaikos, Konstantinos Mitoglou had 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Howard Sant-Roos and Mario Hezonja added 14 each and Ben Bentil 11.
Giedraits drove strong to open the scoring, but Sant-Roos and Mitoglou both answered from deep for the Greens. Polonara's triple was met by Motoglou's put-back and soon a dunk from Hezonja for a 10-7 Panathinaikos lead. Mitoglou kept it going before Polonara, Bochoridis, Peters and Mitoglou traded triples as Baskonia closed within 15-14. Polonara had a dunk in there and buried a third triple that Peters copied before Henry converted a three-point play for a 21-25 Baskonia lead after 10 minutes. Georgios Papagiannis dunked to start the second quarter but Zoran Dragic hit from deep and Polonara dunked on the break to force a Panathinaikos timeout at 23-30. Mitoglou dunked off a block by Bochoridis. Giedraitis hit free throws and a tip-in at 25-34. Free throws pushed the difference to 27-47, but Sant-Roos had 5 points in response and Mitoglou scored a fastbreak layup at 34-39. Dragic traded baskets with Mitoglou and Hezonja, then Ioannis Papapetrou from the arc got Panathinaikos within 41-44. Henry answered and Polonara reemerged with another triple to keep Baskonia up 41-49 at the half.
Mitoglou and Giedraitis got their teams rolling after the break. Henry's jumper restored a double-digit lead, 43-53. Polonara added a three-point play and Tadas Sedekerskis a fastbreak layup to force a Panathinaikos timeout at 43-56. Sant-Roos came back with a pair of triples for Panathinaikos but Polonara had his fifth as the score reached 49-61. Giedraitis rained 2 more triples around those of Shelvin Mack and Bochoridis, on the third-quarter buzzer, when Baskonia led 59-72. Giedraitis was back with another pair of triples to stretch the lead to 63-80 early in the fourth quarter. Giedraitis just kept scoring and the lead ballooned to 71-91 with under 4 minutes, by which time the handwriting was on the wall. The win was going back to Vitoria-Gasteiz and Baskonia's playoff charge was still going strong.
Baskonia jumps up the standings
Baskonia's victory moved it directly from ninth to seventh place for the night, at least, tied at 18-14 with Real Madrid. Baskonia had beaten Real twice, so sits atop its Spanish rivals. A third Spanish team, Valencia (17-14) can join them in a three-way tie with a victory at home against Olympiacos Piraeus on Wednesday.
Big man Achille Polonara was Baskonia's main force for much of the game. He didn't miss a three-pointer until his sixth try late in the third quarter, by which time he already had 22 points and his team had the game in hand. He would finish with the same 22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals for a career-high performance index rating of 33 while missing just 3 shots on the night.
Baskonia used a 2-14 run bridging halftime to turn a 41-44 game into a 43-58 scoreboard. The visitors' defense held Panathinaikos to just 2 points over 7 minutes into the middle of the third quarter, and the difference did not dip into single digits again.
Baskonia's 5-for-5 three-point shooting in the first quarter pointed to where the night was headed. The visitors continued choosing shots wisely, hitting 11 of 15 triples through the end of the third quarter before adding another 3 in the fourth to finish 14 of 20 for the night. That was the team's highest total this season and best on the road in more than three years. Polonara made 5 triples, Giedraitis 4 and Dragic 3.
Both teams turn around to play the second half of this double-round week in just 48 hours. Baskonia goes home to face off with Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Round 33 on Thursday, the same night that Panathinaikos welcomes a visit from AX Armani Exchange Milan.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021