Panathinaikos defeated KK Zagreb 94-76
After 25 minutes of very even scoreboards, defending champions Panathinaikos locked down its defense and pulled away to a solid 94-76 victory over upstart KK Zagreb on Wednesday at OAKA arena in Athens, Greece. The Greens raised their record to 5-2 and remain alone in second place in Group D, while Zagreb's two-game win streak was halted, leaving the visitors to share in a three-way tie for fourth place at 2-5 with Brose Baskets and Zalgiris Kaunas. After sharing leads all game, Zagreb was up 55-58 midway through the third quarter, which is when the Panathinaikos defense went into overdrive. The result was a 24-4 run over almost 10 minutes that made the victory look easier than it was. Mike Batiste led the Greens with 18 points, his biggest output this season, although he left the game after getting an eye poked with 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Nick Calathes and David Logan added 13 points each, Romain Sato 12 and Ian Vougioukas 10. Logan and Sato combined for 7 of their team's 11 three-pointers, as compared to 6 for Zagreb. The visitors got 18 points from Damir Mulaomerovic, a former Euroleague champion with Panathinaikos. Krunoslav Simon added 15 and 4 assists, while T.J. Ford and Sean May scored 12 each. May's 10 rebounds gave him a double-double, while Kostas Kaimakoglou grabbed 11 boards and Batiste 9 for the winners.
Simon and Mulamerovic hit layups on either side of a triple by Logan, making his first start of the season for Panathinaikos, to give Zagreb a 3-4 lead. Logan fed Batiste for a dunk, after which May and Mario Kasun forged a couple ties for Zagreb from the free throw line. Batiste kept the Greens up with another dunk, but Damir Rancic flipped the scoreboard to 11-12 with an open three-pointer. Back and forth the lead went, on a jumper by Logan and an open layup by Kasun to give Zagreb another advantage, 13-14. Batiste continued scoring with a jump hook, however, Rancic answered Sato's three-ball with his own to keep the visitors close. Mulaomerovic vaulted Zagreb back in front on a three-point play before Vougioukas and May exchanged baskets. It took an open triple from Kaimakoglou just before the buzzer for Panathinaikos to hold a 24-22 lead after 10 minutes.
Simon again opened a quarter with a layup, and after Calathes broke that tie, Ford fed May for another before hitting the go-ahead layup himself at 26-28. Vougioukas answered inside for Panathinaikos and then Alex Kyritsis got a rise out of the crowd with a steal and go-ahead layup, his first points in a Euroleague game at OAKA, to make it 30-28. Zagreb would not go away, however, with Josh Heytvelt sticking a shot from the arc and May getting a loose ball put-back as the visitors went up again, 32-35. Out of a timeout, Panathinaikos suffered its sixth turnover before Ford made it 32-37 at the free throw line. Batiste got a jump shot, but Ford answered with a triple, for Zagreb's high lead thus far, 34-40. Logan rejoined the hosts' offense from the arc, where Calathes soon copied him to make it 43-44. By the time Sato joined them with a triple, the Greens had retaken the lead, 46-45. Simon answered in kind, however, and May went to the foul line on the buzzer for the go-ahead free throw and a 48-49 Zagreb lead at the half.
The lead kept changing hands as Sato struck from downtown early in the third quarter to make it 53-51. Mulaomerovic served notice again with free throws and his own blast from the arc as Zagreb jumped back in front 53-56. Batiste and Saso Ozbolt traded two-pointers, before a full-court press by Panathinaikos yielded a game-tying basket by Calathes. He promptly stole and hit the go-ahead layup at 60-58, too. Panathinaikos would not trail again. After a Zagreb timeout, another turnover by the visitors let Batiste score a three-point play to which Calathes added a layup for a 65-58 scoreboard. Kaimakoglou made it a 12-0 Panathinaikos run with a baseline jumper. Zagreb was also running into foul trouble, with Heytvelt joining Rancic on the bench with 4 fouls each. Ford finally broke the drought for Zagreb at the free throw line, but Sato struck from deep for the game's first double-digit lead, 70-60. Papa Dia got two points back on a tip-in for Zagreb, but the Greens were still in charge, 71-62, after 30 minutes.
Steven Smith's three-point play and subsequent driving layup to open the final quarter widened the Panathinaikos lead to 76-62 as Zagreb struggled to find decent shots. Vougioukas and Sarunas Jasikevicius padded the difference to 80-62 before Simon's free throws ended what was a 24-4 run by Panathinaikos that had lasted almost 10 full minutes since the middle of the third quarter. Jasikevicius answered with a triple before Mulaomerovic and May finally found some points for Zagreb, but at 85-70 with under 3 minutes to play, it was too little too late for the visitors to challenge again for a major upset. Despite a 25-minute scare, the victory was staying in Athens with the Greens.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011