And then there was one, only one undefeated team left in the Euroleague after defending champ Panathinaikos knocked off Tau Ceramica in Vitoria on Thursday 75-76 in Group B. The Greens won on a pair of foul shots by Arriel McDonald with 5.6 seconds left after Jerome Allen had put Tau ahead moments earlier, also at the foul line. The victory broke a rare two-game losing streak for Panathinaikos and lifted its record to 3-2. Tau is now 4-1. Panathinaikos was led by Darryl Middleton and McDonald with 15 points apiece, and Antonis Fotsis added 12. For Tau, Andres Nocioni led the way with 20 points and Jerome Allen added 15.
Tau started with some indecision in the offensive end, committing up to 7 turnovers, which was taken advantage of by the defending champs to pull away. Moreover, the hosts didn't shine in rebounding either, as the mobility of Middleton and Fotsis, who played little in the paint, drew Tau's big men far from the basket. The Greeks were cool on offense, drawing fouls from the big men of Tau: Luis Scola ended the period with two fouls and Rashard Griffith with three. McDonald drove his team with many assists, and in defense had two steals. Middleton Middleton ended the period with 9 points. Nevertheless, Tau, with a motivated Allen, put an end to the first 10 minutes cutting down the deficit to 17-24 after having been trailing by 11 just 3 minutes earlier.
Tau coach Dusko Ivanovic called the players' attention on defense between quarters, and the hosts stepped on court with clear ideas, which only allowed Panathinaikos to score 13 points in the period. Still, the guests managed to draw the third foul of Scola, which left Tau's inside game weakened. In the offensive end, Nocioni was the most outstanding player for Tau, scoring 5 points, drawing 3 fouls and cheering the fans, which was decisive for the comeback at the end of the second quarter. With 27 seconds to go, Tau jumped ahead for the first time, 38-37. Another outstanding player for Tau was Laurent Foirest, making his Euroleague debut after an elbow injury. For Panathinaikos, Jurica Zuza was the most valuable player on offense, while Middleton was neutralized by the improving defense of Hanno Mottola, who ended the first half with 11 points.
After resumption. Nocioni was the determinant player for his team again, scoring 5 straight points that put Tau ahead by 6. Nevertheless, two threes by Kalaitzis and McDonald, and two personal plays by Alvertis forged a 0-9 run for the Greens. That was ended by Nocioni again, with a three and a layup, leaving his team in the lead again, 56-53. Nocioni scored 12 of Tau's 18 points in the third quarter, and after 30 minutes, the hosts led by 1 point only, 56-55.
Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic called Rodney Bufford on court to stop Nocioni, but it was not that easy. Tau was up by 3 with 5 minutes to go, but McDonald tied the game with a single shot. Scola, who was rather inactive until then, shot for three straight baskets which were answered by a bomb by Fotsis from downtown and another one by Buford. After a penetration by Allen, Nocioni pulled a board with Tau was down by 1 and 20 seconds to go. Allen was fouled, and scored the both free throws. With 12 seconds to go, McDonald would take the chance and after being fouled by Mottols, he hit his 2 free throws that gave Panathinaikos the victory.
Wednesday, November 6, 2002