The defending Euroleague champions from Panathinaikos brought all their considerable offensive firepower to bear on Thursday in Lithuania to seize a 79-94 road win against Zalgiris Kaunas in Group B. Showing they know how to play with a lead, the Greens bumped ahead before halftime and slowly strangled any attempt by Zalgiris to reward its fans with an upset. Four different Greens tallied 15 points or more, led by captain Fragiskos Alvertis with 22 points. Rodney Buford popped for 16, mostly in the second half, Arriel McDonald and Antonis Fotsis 15 each and Lazaros Papadopulous 11. Kornel David kept Zalgiris close early and finished with 19 points, but was stopped after halftime by Panathinaikos. virginius Ginevicius came off the bench for 18 for the hosts, Gintaras Einikis added 17 and Ed Cota 11. The Greens stuffed the Zalgiris shooters, however, limiting Saulius Stombergas and Dainius Salenga to only 7 attempts and 10 points combined. The loss puts Zalgiris in an 0-2 hole in difficult Group B, while Panathinaikos starts as it did a year ago, without a spot through two games.
Hosts and visitors matched each other basket-for-basket in the early going, with David getting his way inside for 6 points, but five different Greens dropping points as the visitors led 10-12 after 6 minutes. But Zalgiris was already strapped with a disadvantage they could ill afford, foul trouble to both Einikis, with two early fouls, and Stombergas, with three. Although Masiulias was soon helping David, the Panathinaikos tandem of Fotsis and Lazaros Papadopoulos wanted its share of the points around the basket, too. They also got to the line for free throws while extending the Panathinaikos lead to 14-21. David reemerged with the last basket of the quarter to pull Zalgiris within 5, at 16-21. He had 8 points in the quarter to lead all scorers.
David kept doing his thing in the second quarter, but the Greens kept doing theirs, too. The visitors distributed their offense while doing the exact opposite on defense by limiting everyone on Zalgiris except David, until Vidas Ginevicius jumped off the bench to create some pressure on the Greens with his drives. The presence of Papadopoulos inside became a big factor in helping the Greeks to control the game. Rodney Buford stepped up with a couple of impressive athletic plays, but Einikis scored 2 plus 1 to reduce the margin to 4, 25-29. Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic immediately sent his starters on court, and soon Zalgiris saw Stombergas head back to the bench with his fourth foul. The Greens flirted with double-figure leads at 28-37 on a jumper by McDonald with 2 minutes left until the half. David answered that with a dunk, however, and responded to a pair of free throws by Alvertis with another inside basket. But an omen came on the last posession as Ginevicius lost the ball at midcourt and Jaka Lakovic hit a shot from 10 meters for the biggest lead so far, 34-44.
With Stombergas still benched and no threat from outside, Zalgiris just lived on David's hustle and points after halftime. Cota added a couple of good moves, but Salenga travelled and Alvertis made Zalgiris pay with a three-point. With a McDonald jumper and fastbreak layup by Kalaitzis the visitors' lead lengthened to 40-53. Zalgiris coach Algirdas Brazys took a risk and puts Stombergas back in, getting rewarded with a three-pointer. When Einikis copied him, and Ginevicius too, Zalgiris was suddenl alive at 52-56 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Panathinaikos got a break now: Fotsis got his shot blocked by David, but grabbed the loose ball to hit a triple. Soon after, Stombergas gets fouled out. Was that the end of the Zalgiris resistance? Ginevicus didn't think so, hitting from two- and three-point distance. Trouble was, he couldn't stop Buford from finding his touch for the Greens, who coasted to the end of the period up 59-66.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
Arunas Pakula, Kaunas