After falling behind by 20 points shortly before halftime, Panathinaikos revived its chances in Group F with a strong comeback to a comfortable 93-81 victory against visiting Tau Ceramica in Athens on Wednesday. The result forged a first-place tie at the top of Group F, as both teams have 2-1 records. Panathinaikos trailed 31-51 after 17 minutes, but finished the first half with a 10-0 run and was in the lead again by the middle of the third. Point guard Jaka Lakovic received the Euroleague's MVP award for February before the game, then went out and led the Panathinaikos comeback with 25 points and 6 assists. Mike Batiste followed with 21 points for the winners, while Fragiskos Alvertis and Dimitris Diamantidis added 11 each. The Panathinaikos defense forced 16 Tau turnovers while holding the guests to 30 points in the last 23 minutes. Arvydas Macijauskas led Tau with 18 points, while Luis Scola added 17, Tiago Splitter and Travis Hansen 12 each, and Kornel David 11.
Ibrahim Kutluay hit from the arc to give Panathinaikos a quick 3-2 lead to start the game, but Tau answered with a 0-5 run on points shared by Scola and David to lead 3-7. Nikos Hatzivrettas and Batiste copied them to put Panathinaikos one point ahead, 8-7, but then Travis Hansen blasted a pair of three-pointers to let the guests zoom in front again, 10-15. A string of 4 points by Kostas Tsartsaris kept Panathinaikos within 16-20 before Tau was off on a new run, 0-8 this time, with Hansen's second consecutive basket making it 16-28. Tau was executing well from the perimeter and in the paint, leaving little room or time for the Panathinaikos defense to react as the visitors' lead settled at 20-28 at the quarter's end.
To open the second quarter, Splitter took a turn scoring for Tau on a layup and a dunk to push the lead to 20-32. Tau kept dominating under the boards and finding big men alone after pick-and-rolls as the lead skyrocketed to 17 point, 24-41, on 5 more points in a row by Splitter. Macijauskas soon popped twice from the arc to make it 31-47 as Panathinaikos was having a hard time at both ends of the court. With 2 minutes left until the half, Andrew Betts dunked for a 31-51 lead that seemed almost insurmountable considering how both teams were playing. Then, however, is when the turnaround started. Lakovic dropped a three-pointer and drove for a layup to get 5 points back, then returned to finish a 10-0 closing run with a steal and triple on the buzzer. In 2 minutes, Panathinaikos had cut the deficit in half, to 41-51 at the break.
Lakovic was still on fire when the teams returned, sinking antoher triple to continue the Panathinaikos run. When Fragiskos Alvertis boomed his own shot from the arc, and Lakovic followed with another strong drive, Panathinaikos had scored 18 unanswered points to pull within 49-51. After 2 scoreless minutes, Tau then got back on track with a triple by Macijauskas, but already the big damage was done. Diamantidis soon bagged 5 consecutive points for the Greens and Vlado Scepanovic buried a three-pointer to make it 59-60. Tsartsaris took the honors of taking back the lead, 61-60, on a dunk that sent up a roar from the Athens crowd. Lakovic increased the gap to 64-62 before Tau reacted with Scola tying and David putting the visitors ahead again, 64-65. However, Diamantidis and Batiste finished the turnaround quarter at the foul line, however, pushing Panathinaikos in front again, 67-65 after 30 minutes.
With three guards and Alvertis at the power forward position, Panathinaikos kept controlling as Batiste dunked to start the final quarter. Pablo Prigioni scored from the arc to brink Tau within 69-68, but as the Panathinaikos defense tightened behind the play of Diamantidis, Batiste bagged 8 points in a 10-0 run on offense to break the game open. By the time Alvertis finished it with free throws, Panathinaikos was ahead 77-70 and only 5 minutes remained.With foul trouble to both Scola and Splitter, Tau seemed to be running out of energy at the same time that the Greens kept charging stronger. Scola and Prigioni left the game due to their fifth personal fouls and as Batiste executed a spectacular reverse dunk, Panathinaikos soared ahead 85-73. Tau had made only 2 baskets in the whole fourth period and the visitors' big early leads were distant memories as the Greens rolled to a comfortable victory that was a 45th birthday present for coach Zeljko Obradovic, not to mention a welcome gift for their fans.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Vassilis Skountis, Athens