Two experienced teams staged a pure Euroleague showdown on Thursday in Treviso, Italy, where at the end, Benetton prevailed over Panathinaikos 83-77 in a game that did nothing to hurt Group C's reputation. A big 27-11 third quarter was the basis of the victory, but Benetton still needed Massimo Bulleri's three-pionter with 18 seconds left to breathe easily. Benetton's record improved to 2-1, as it joins Tau Ceramica in second place. Panathinaikos fell to 1-2. Ramunas Siskausas buried 12 of his 25 points in the crucial third quarter to lead Benetton. Marcus Goree added 19 points, Denis Marconato 13 and Bulleri 10 for the winners. For the Greens, Jaka Lakovic was high scorer with 18 points, while newcomer Tracy Murray debuted with 12 points and Kostas Tsartsaris added 11.
Matteo Soragna joined Benetton's starting five, while the newly signed Murray watched the tipoff from the Panathinaikos bench. Goree opened the scoring, but Panathinaikos got an early 2-7 lead when Scepanovic and Lakovic ran through the Benetton defense for easy layups. Benetton worked hard to overcome the Panathinaikos defense, but only Goree could score, and even with that, an inspired Lakovic landed a couple of fadeaway jumpers to keep the Greens ahead 7-13. With the rest of his teammates suffering tough man-to-man defense, Goree reached 9 points with a triple and got Benetton within 12-13. That allowed Marconato's offensive rebound and put-back to give the hosts their first lead, 14-13. The Panathinaikos remained steady and Mike Batiste slammed a fastbreak dunk before Siskauskas rose up and tied the game, 18-18, going inside. Panathinaikos had a run left, however, as a desperate three-pointer by Nikos Hatzivrettas and a jumper by Darryl Middleton left the guests in front 18-23 after 10 minutes..
Murray joined Tsartsaris and Patrick Femerling on court for Pao in the second quarter, and he immediately dropped 2 smooth three-pointers in a row. When Femerling added a pair of free throws, the visitors led 23-34. Still down by 11 a minute later, Benetton needed someone to respond. That someone was Bulleri, who buried a triple while being fouled and added a free throw. By the time Siskauskas riled the crowd with his own three-pointer, the difference was down to 36-40 in minute 18. Femerling now keyed a 2-9 response by the guests, but Siskauskas again blew up the Panathinaikos defense, while Goree hit another triple. With his team ahead by just 2 points, Tsartsaris scored inside during the final seconds to put the Greens up 40-44 at the half.
After Dimitris Diamantidis opened the third quarter with an offensive rebounds and put-back for Panathinaikos, Benetton went about playing a stellar defense. That allowed a 0-6 run as Marlon Garnett made two baseline drives and Siskauskas scored to tie 46-46. Lakovic let his team to breath, but Garnett still had the game in his hands and Panathinaikos lost Diamantidis to a fourth foul. Garnett put Benetton ahead again, 49-48, midway through the quarter. Then it was time for Siskauskas to put the game away with a blast of 10 straight points: he made drives, steals and a three-pointer as Benetton surged ahead, 62-52 after 28 minutes. Panathinaikos had trouble defending pick-and-rolls now. Uros Slokar dunked alone, Goree dunked and was fouled. But the Benetton defense, allowing just 11 points in the quarter, deserved plenty credit for the team's 67-55 lead after 30 minutes.
Lakovic started the final quarter with a jumper, but Benetton was still on fire. Another dunk by Goree, added to a basket-plus-foul shot by Siskauskas, pushed the lead to its maximum, 71-59. Murray made a dent, shooting from outside and driving to the rim, cutting the difference to 73-65 with 5 minutes left. But Bulleri, with a baseline penetration, set the edge at double digits again. The guests were not done, however, as Giorgos Kalaitzis sparked a 7-0 run to bring Pao within 75-68. Free throws by after a tenacious basket by Tsartsaris cut the differenceto just 3 points, 75-72, with 2 minutes on the clock. Siskauskas missed a free throw and Kalaitzis a triple, but Tsartsaris was perfect from downtown and the Greens were within 76-75 with 51 seconds left. Siskauskas foul shots offset a Kalaitzis driving layup for a 78-77 score. The clutch shot was a three-pointer by Bulleri with 18 seconds to go to which Siskauskas added insurance free throws for the final score and a big Benetton victory.
Thursday, November 18, 2004