Panionios edged Real Madrid 68-66
An Aaron Miles coast-to-coast layup in the closing seconds cancelled out one of the biggest comebacks in Euroleague history and gave Panionios On Telecoms a 68-66 win over Real Madrid on Wednesday night in Athens. Marko Tomas tied the score at 66-66 with 6 seconds to go, but the visitors were unable to stop Miles, who blew by Raul Lopez and Axel Hervelle to win it. Panionios won for the third time in its last four games to improve to 3-3 in Group D, the same record that Madrid now has. Madrid, however, sits ahead of Panionios in the standings, since it won their first showdown by 21 in October.
Branko Cvetkovic led Panionios for much of the night and finished with a season-high 21 points, including a pair of clutch free throws to put his team ahead with 19 seconds remaining. Ivan Zoroski added 10 for the winners. Tomas matched his career high with 18 for Madrid, Hervelle recorded 12 points and 9 rebounds and Felipe Reyes finished with 10. Madrid dominated early through Reyes and Lopez to take a 2-10 lead, but Panionios soon woke up as Cvetkovic scored 12 points during an 18-1 tear that bridged the first and second periods as the hosts went ahead for good. Zoroski was next to shine as he pushed Panionios out to a 19-point lead before Madrid cut the gap to 41-25 at halftime. Cvetkovic remained red-hot in the third-period and it was his triple that gave Panionios its biggest lead of the night, 55-27. But Madrid turned things around with 16 unanswered points at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth periods. Alex Mumbru played a big role and Tomas completed the Madrid comeback setting up the wild last minutes. Panionios next visits reigning champion CSKA Moscow, while Madrid returns home to face Partizan Belgrade.
Real Madrid was impressive early in the game, as it not only used some nice passing to score easy layups, but also provided some stifling defense that kept Panionios scoreless for more than three minutes. As a result, the guests jumped out to a 2-10 lead that forced Panionios head coach Aleksandar Trifunovic to call for a timeout. Eventually Panionios found a go-to guy in Cvetkovic, who scored 7 points in a row to pull the hosts within 11-13 and bring the crowd to its feet. With Panionios starting to clamp down on defense, Madrid cooled off offensively all of a sudden and the hosts turned the game topsy-turvy and galloped to a rather unexpected 17 -13 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Cvetkovic started the second period in style, as he first unleashed a triple and then finished the break with a two-handed dunk to stretch the lead to 22-13. Reyes ended the dry spell for Real, yet Panionios was too passionate on defense to allow its opponent find any rhythm offensively. With the 24-second clock ticking down, veteran Yannis Giannoulis scored on a layup to build a double digit lead, 25-15. Then Zoroski picked up the scoring slack and soon Panionios built a whopping 30-17 advantage. The visitors were clearly struggling on offense, having committed already 9 turnovers, unlike Zoroski who nailed a triple to keep Madrid with its back on the wall, 35-18. The guests could not find their way to the basket and only Reyes caused some trouble for Panionios with his constant trips to the charity stripe. In addition, Madrid’s turnovers led to easy points for the hosts at the other and Panionios soon blew the game open 41-22. Finally, Alex Hervelle drilled a buzzer-beating triple, but Madrid was still facing an uphill battle with the halftime score fixed at 41-25.
The second half commenced with Real Madrid determined to redeem itself from its first half blues, however the momentum of the game did not change mostly because the guests were too nervous to turn the tide to their favor. Levon Kendall made a couple of free throws and then both Cvetkovic and Aaron Miles penetrated the defense to propel Panionios to a 47-25 lead. The hosts were dominating in both ends of the floor, as indicated also by the fact that Kendall swatted away a Jeremiah Massey layup attempt. Cvetkovic was too good to let Madrid rally, as he knocked down a triple to widen the gap to unprecedented levels, 55-27. Instead of folding though, Madrid started to dig out of the 28-point hole. Its zone defense slowed down Panionios and allowed the guests to use a 0-9 spurt to show that they weren’t willing to go down without a fight. Cvetkovic split a pair of free throws before Tomas fired in a triple to slice the margin to 56-39. Then, Massey got the offensive board for a bucket and in the waning seconds of the third period, Alex Mumbru scored a wild ,morale boosting, shot from downtown to cut the lead to 60-45.
Tomas stole the ball from Cvetkovic to finish the break as Madrid continued its charge. Suddenly Panionios had lost its composure and Hervelle contributed a three-point play to get Real within 10. Tomas fired in another triple before Trifunovic called a timeout to regroup his forces, yet Panionios was asphyxiating against the zone defense. After a Tomas layup, neither Kalampokis nor Zoroski could get the scoreboard rolling for the hosts. Mumbru wasted 2 free throws chances, but Reyes gobbled up the offensive rebound and Hervelle unleashed a triple to make it a one-basket game, 60-58. Baxter hit a free-throw to contribute Panionios’s first points after six empty minutes. Then Kalampokis slashed to the basket to draw a foul and give Panionios a 63-58 lead, yet Mumbru responded with a triple to pull Madrid within 63-61. Baxter missed a layup and moments later Mumbru stole the ball and fed Tomas who put Real in front 63-64 with 1:20 left to play –his basket capped an amazing 8-37 run. Zoroski tied the game with a free throw and Hervelle missed from downtown. With 29 seconds to go, Cvetkovic did not falter from the line, so Madrid had one last chance to stun the hosts and escape with the away win. Lopez’s triple went off target, but he grabbed the offensive board and Tomas hit 2 free throws to tie the game with 6 seconds remaining. Miles flashed to the basket, scoring a gutsy layup and Panionios came out victorious, 68-66, in a thrilling match.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Epameinondas Tsakalos, Athens