Panathinaikos bested Unicaja 61-77
Panathinaikos managed to advance to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Playoffs thanks to a 61-77 road win at Unicaja in the last week of the Top 16. Since Caja Laboral also won in Vilnius to finish as group champ, Panathinaikos will now square off with defending champ Regal FC Barcelona in the Playoffs. Unicaja was already out of the race before the game even started. This results leaves the Greens with a 4-2 record in Group E, just the same as Caja Laboral, but finishes second because it has the tiebreaker lost with the Spanish team. Unicaja says goodbye to its Euroleague season with a 1-5 record for last place in the group. The first half of the game was rather balanced but a 0-12 run in the third period opened a big gap in the score which Unicaja never managed to cut completely. Drew Nicholas led the winners with 18 points, Dimitris Diamantidis added 15 and Mike Batiste posted 10. For Unicaja, Nedzad Sinanovic, Joel Freeland and Gerald Fitch had all 12 points apiece.
Panathinaikos won the opening tip and Romain Sato got the visitors on the scoreboard first, but Gerald Fitch responded with a three-pointer. Rod Blakney also connected from downtown, but Panathinaikos jumped ahead when Kostas Kaimakoglou made a triple and then Kostas Tsartsaris scored twice in the paint. The lead changed hands again as Uros tripkovic netted a three for Unicaja and Ian Vougioukas scored in the paint for the Greens. Diamantidis took charge with a basket and 2 free throws to lift the Greek champs to 12-19. Nedzad Sinanovic countered with a three-point play and Saul Blanco nailed a three, but Diamantidis gave the visitors an 18-23 advantage through 10 minutes.
Nicholas heated up early in the second quarter with a short jumper and basket-plus-foul to stretch the lead to 20-28. Sinanovic came through in the post again for a basket-plus-foul and Joel Freeland and Fitch followed to close the gap to a single shot. Nicholas responded with a clutch three, but the hosts didn’t let up and Fitch scored with a tip-in. Sato put the Greens up 31-38 with a three-pointer, but Freeland got to the line for 2 shortly before the break to bring his team within 33-38.
The second half started with a high pace on both sides. Unicaja and Panathinaikos were trying to run in offense to get the fast, easy baskets. Sinanovic did
so opening the score and then Fotsis replied soon with a three for 35-41 but Fitch soon sneaked into the paint to hit the bucket for the hosts. However, a
couple good defenses by Panathinaikos and their respective good offenses, including a three by Diamantidis, allowed the Greens to build the first double-
digit lead of the night, 37-48. The scoring run climbed up to 0-12 with three more free throws by Diamantidis and Mike Batiste's first basket to make it 37-
53 as Unicaja called a timeout. Rodney Blakney stopped the drought for the hosts with a jumper from four meters as the quarter entered the last minute, and
then Uros Tripkovic beat the third quarter buzzer with a fancy jumper over the Panathinaikos defense to make it 41-53 after 30 minutes.
The last period started with the Greens forcing a Unicaja turnover and a 24-second violation, while in offense Drew Nicholas hit a three for 41-56 to set the trend. Diamantidis soon copied him and Blakney had no other option but to do the same on another almost expired possession, 44-59. The Martin Carpena arena stands caught fire when Sinanovic blocked Batiste's attempt to score and then Joel Freeland completed the combo with a three to make it 47-61. Nick Calathes gave a sigh of relief to the Greens with a three almost on the shot clock when the difference was only 11 points. The game had entered the last five minutes and then Stratos Perperoglou put things back in place fast with a new basket that made it 50-66. Fotsis finally ended Unicaja's options from the arc again completing the 0-8 run. The last moments of the game were a formality as Panathinaikos secured a Playoffs ticket.
Thursday, March 3, 2011