Panathinaikos remains the best team in the Euroleague after beating Buducnost of Podgorica on the road, 72-84 in an easy win on Thursday night. Until the third quarter everything turned out too easy for the Greeks, who saw how the hosts got near in the final period after a 21-8 run, almost neutralizing a 23-point lead of the Greens. Panathinaikos also saw the comeback of forward Ibrahim Kutluay after three months away from the playing floors. This win raises Panathinaikos' record to 10-1 at the top of Group C and drops Buducnost's to 2-9, tied in the last place of the group with zadar. The winners were led by Dejan Bodiroga with 29 points. His main helpers tonight were Fragistos Alvertis and Giannis Giannoulis with 14 and 12 points respectively. For Buducnost, Igor Rakocevic hit 24 points, Zarko Cabarkapa added 15 and Goran Cakic contributed 12.
Panathinaikos started more concentrated than the hosts, and that reflected on the scoreboard as the Greens entered the lead soon at 2-6. The main flaw for Buducnost from the beginning were the turnovers, and Panathinaikos took advantage of that led by Sanchez, who after hitting a three gave an 8-point lead to the Greeks, 13-21, that would be the standard to follow in the first half. After another three-pointer by Dejan Bodiroga for the first double-digit lead for Panathinaikos at 16-26, Dragan Ceranic lost a ball and made a foul that meant the 19-28 with which the first period ended.
The second started with a quick 4-0 run by the hosts that seemed to put them back in the game, 23-28, but it was all fake as Panathinaikos would pull away again later. Darryl Middleton commited his third foul early in the quarter, but that wasn't reason enough for head coach Zeljko Obradovic to walk him to the bench, which turned out a positive decision for the rebounding. Giannis Giannoulis ended an explosive fast-break of the Greens with a spectacular dunk that gave Panathinaikos a maximum lead of 13 points, 24-37, and provoked a time out by coach Miodrag Kadija to try to mentalize his players again. The measure adopted proved not to be so effective as the quarter ended with even a bigger lead for the guests, 29-45, and worrying numbers in the turnovers for Buducnost, 14 against the 8 by Panathinaikos.
After the break, the Greeks would start the quarter with a three by Alvertis to climb to 29-48, and built a 3-13 run for a 26-point lead at 32-48 that seemed to break the game open. Buducnost wasn't concentrated at all, and missed most of the shots, including the free throws, while Panathinaikos kept on scoring through fast-breaks. In the final moments of the quarter, the YUgoslavs managed to cutdown the lead down to 21 to face a fourth quarter that looked not very different from a painful agony, 45-66.
But the final period was the total opposite from the third. Buducnost hit for an amazing 21-8 run to get to 66-74. The small crowd that had gathered in Podgorica started to shout louder because they thought the game could be won. And that was Buducnosts's problem, they didn't. Panathinaikos reacted with a pressing defense that forced Buducnost to commit more turnovers, and with 70-82 on the scoreboard, Radonjevic was called an unsportsmanlike foul that made Buducnost call it a day. In the end, 72-84 after a better two-point percentage of the Greeks that was the key of the game, 29 of 38.
Thursday, January 17, 2002