Panathinaikos knocked out Armani Jeans 93-62
Despite playing without three main contributors, Panathinaikos seized first place in Group D with an overwhelming 93-62 home win against Armani Jeans Milano that eliminated the visitors from the Top 16. Its widest victory margin so far let Panathinaikos finish the regular season with a 7-3 record, alone in Group D's first place, good for a first-level seeding in the Top 16 draw on January 4. Milano fell to 4-6 and fifth place, when a victory would have given it access to the Top 16 through a three-way tie with Valencia and Efes Pilsen. After an early 13-13 tie, Panathinaikos broke open double-digit leads that climbed consistently until the finish. The Greens - without injured big men Mike Batiste and Aleks Maric, as well as guard Drew Nicholas - showed just how deep they are. Stratos Perperoglou led five double-digit scores with 14 points, while Kostas Kaimakoglou had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Ian Vougioukas and Antonis Fotsis added 11 points each and Romain Sato 10. Milenko Tepic led the hosts' massive 45-23 advantage on the boards iwth 11 rebounds. Milano got 13 points from Morris Finley, 12 from David Hawkins and 11 from Ibby Jaaber.
Oleksiy Pecherov's baseline jumper was the game's first basket. Kostas Tsartsaris matched that a second-chance put-back, and after Hawkins downed a jumper for the guests, another offensive rebound put Fotsis on the foul line for a 5-4 Panathinaikos lead. Hawkins hit free throws before Dimitris Diamantidis drilled his first shot attempt, from downtown, for the Greens. Sato added 3 points the hard way to make it 11-6 for Panathinaikos before Jaaber answered with a rainbow jumper and Marco Mordente's fastbreak triple tied it up, 11-11. Tsartsaris answered with a great pivot move that Hawkins, after a timeout, matched with an acrobatic reverse. Vougioukas came off the Panathinaikos bench to break the 13-13 tie with a strong post move and 1 of 2 free throws. When Sato found Fotsis alone in the corner for a triple, the Greens were off and running. Another jumper by Jaaber was answered by Sato's high-flying dunk. Then Diamantidis capped the quarter with a step-back triple that put Panathinaikos in charge, at 24-15, after 10 minutes.
Finley went fullcourt with a long rebound and sank a pull-up jumper to spark Milano's hopes in the second quarter. But the veteran Tsartsaris dashed those hopes, following a long two-pointer with another jumper, this one from the long side of the arc, to suddenly give Panathinaikos its largest lead yet, 29-19. A timeout barely interrupted the Greens as Tepic scored one-on-one against a new Milano zone. Stefano Mancinelli got loose for a fastbreak basket to stop the bleeding for Milano - or so it seemed until Diamantidis stepped back again and blasted a new triple over Nicolo Melli to make it 34-21. The Greens kept dominating as Kaimakoglou ripped an offensive board leading to 2 free throws. Hawkins stepped up with a three-pointer for Milano, but the guests gave away a second-chance basket to Vougioukas. Finley hit a much-needed triple for Milano. Again, however, an offensive rebound - the eighth so far by the Greens - gave Fotsis a free throw before Kaimakoglou's steal led to a fastbreak three-point play by Nick Calathes and a 44-29 scoreboard. Just as Finley hit a new three-pointer for Milano, Perperoglou scored another second-chance basket for the Greens, who coasted into halftime ahead by 46-32.
Perperoglou and Vougioukas used the second half's first 2 minutes to score easy baskets and put Milano's back to the wall. Out of a timeout, Milano forced a 24-second violation on Panathinaikos, then Jaaber hurt the Greens' zone with a reverse. Soon, however, soon Diamantidis was feeding Perperoglou for a triple and Fotsis for a no-look alley-oop dunk at 56-34. Milano's first inside basket in a long while was scored by Mason Rocca, who then drew an offensive foul on Vougioukas. Melli hit a three-pointer and a hook shot for the visitors but could only get his team as close as 58-41 before Fotsis and Perperoglou drove for baskets, the second coming with a free throw for a new high lead, 63-41. The difference continued hovering the 20-point mark and settled at 67-46 after 3 quarters.
Perperoglou and Kaimakoglou sandwiched their three-pointers around one by Finley to open the final quarter. Jonas Maciulis, back from injury for Milano, stole and scored to lower the difference into the teens again, 73-54. After a timeout, Hawkins fed Maciulis for another basket before a clock problem stopped play. When the action resumed, Sato scored 4 quick points and Vougioukas a hook shot to reestablish domination by the Greens going into the game's last 5 minutes. Nothing would change the result now. In fact the Panathinaikos lead climbed higher than ever through to the finish as the fans in Athens started thinking ahead to the Top 16 and Milano to its long trip home.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010