Zvezda smashes Greens, 81-48, to snap losing streak
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade ended its four-game losing streak with an overwhelming 81-48 victory against visiting Panathinaikos OPAP Athens at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall on Thursday. The visitors led 2-6 after 2 minutes of play, but with the 14-0 run that followed, Zvezda took the reins and never looked back. The 33-point final margin was the worst loss suffered by Panathinaikos in the EuroLeague this century. Zvezda's trademark defense suffocated Panathinaikos all game long, holding the Greens to just 22 points after halftime to confirm the victory early. Nate Wolters set the tone for the winners with 18 points in 24 minutes, including Zvezda's first 10. Austin Hollins followed with 11 and Nikola Kalinic netted 10 as Zvezda's record improved to 3-5. Panathinaikos, which dropped to 2-6, was led by Daryl Macon Jr., who posted 15 points, and Howard Sant-Roos, who chipped in 10.
Georgios Papagiannis led the guests to their early 2-6 lead but Wolters took over by scoring all of Zvezda's points in the first 5 minutes to make it 10-6. Kalinic then added his first 2 baskets and Luka Mitrovic soon extended the difference to double digits, at 16-6. Panathinaikos tried some lineup changes, but couldn't find a way to break Zvezda's strong defense. Ognjen Dobric scored in traffic and Kalinic contributed a three-point-play to increase the margin to 21-8 after 10 minutes.
Panathinaikos started the second quarter strong, with a four-point play by Macon and a monster put-back by Jehyve Floyd at 21-14. After a Zvezda timeout, Wolters and Hollins combined to boost the lead to 27-16. Despite Macon's effort on offense, the Greens kept struggling to find momentum as the hosts escaped to a 34-20 edge when Marko Simonovic put together a layup and a corner three. Dobric then hit from deep and Luka Mitrovic scored inside to make it 37-20. Panathinaikos got some relief from Sant-Roos, whose 4 points and 2 steals in the last minute of the half got his team within 39-26.
Sant-Roos kept rocking and made it 39-28 right after the break, but Zvezda answered immediately with a three-point play by Kalinic and a jumper by Wolters to surge ahead 45-28. Only Sant-Roos scored for the Greens while Ognjen Kuzmic restored Zvezda's 19-point home lead, 47-28. Hollins and Ioannis Papapetrou traded baskets to end a scoring lull and Branko Lazic added free throws for a 57-36 Zvezda advantage after 30 minutes.
Zvezda kept it going in the fourth quarter as Mitrovic scored inside, Aleksa Uskokovic and Lazic hit free throws, then Dobric nailed corner three in an 8-0 run to a 65-36 scoreboard with 8 minutes remaining. Back-to-back triples by Dejan Davidovac dug a deeper holde, 73-41, midway through the last quarter. With the outcome in no doubt, Panathinaikos fought to avoid an all-time club low in scoring, which it avoided thanks to Macon's last 5 points.
Wolters set the tone for Zvezda vs. Panathinaikos
Nate Wolters had a terrific start, authoring Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade's first 10 points over 5 minutes, all of which proved crucial to ignite the crowd and build the right momentum for the home team. After his first shot was rejected, Wolters landed a couple of floaters and hit twice from downtown to give his team a 10-6 lead that Zvezda never surrendered. He finished as the game's top scorer with a season-high 18 points. on 6-for-10 two-point and 2-for-2 three-point accuracy, to which he added 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to bounce back from his season-low performance at AX Armani Exchange Milan in Round 7.
Zvezda's offense matched its defense
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade came into Thursday game already known as a defensive machine, holding opponents 70 points per game, second-lowest in the EuroLeague. But Zvezda also had shown limited offensive capabilities, ranking second-to-last in scoring with 66.9 points per game. What's more, Zvezda could not score more than 63 points in any of its last three games. On Thursday, however, Zvezda enjoyed a solid offensive performance that amounted to its best scoring of the season so far, 81 points. Zvezda combined solid shooting – 55.6% inside the arc, 36.4% from deep and 85% at the foul line – with its usual exhausting defense in a perfect storm for an uncontested win.
Panathinaikos's toughest loss
Its 33-point defeat was the biggest suffered by Panathiaikos OPAP Athens in 520 Euroleague games this century. It lost just two 30-point blowouts previously, both at the hands of CSKA Moscow. Two seasons ago, CSKA routed Panathinaikos 66-97 in Athens, which was just a point worse than a 74-44 defeat Panathinaikos took in Moscow in Game 5 of the 2013-14 playoffs. That was also the lowest scoring night in Panathinaikos history this century, but it was in danger on Thursday. Trailing 78-43 with 2 minutes left, Daryl Macon Jr. provided 5 points in a row that raised the visitors' score to 48 points. The Greens' team PIR of 35 was also its second-worst ever after just 20 in that that 2014 playoff game against CSKA.
Thursday, November 4, 2021