Panathinaikos rallied past Union Olimpija 95-88
Panathinaikos clinched its Top 16 ticket with a wild come-from-behind win over Union Olimpija, claiming first place in Turkish Airlines Euroleague Group D along the way. The Greens trailed by as many as 9 in the fourth quarter and Olimpija was in control down the stretch. But with the ball and a 2-point lead in the closing seconds, a costly turnover for the visitors allowed Panathinaikos to get off a final shot, but though it missed, Antonis Fotsis was first to the rebound and beat the buzzer to tie the game and force overtime. With the momentum then with the hosts, Drew Nicholas hit 3 three-pointers in an 11-0 overtime run that iced the victory. The Greek champs, who lost to Olimpija in overtime earlier in the season, improved to 6-2 in Group D – one win more than Olimpija. Fotsis paced the winners with 17 points and 9 rebounds, Dimitris Diamantidis produced 16 points and 11 assists, Nicholas scored 15 of 5-for-9 three-point shooting, Mike Batiste posted 14 points and 10 boards and Romain Sato netted 12. Kenny Gregory led Olimpija with 19 points, Vlado Ilevski added 16 and 6 assists, Saso Ozbolt scored 15 and Goran Jagodnik 10 in defeat.
Kevinn Pinkney stopped Batiste at one end and Damir Markota sank a jumper at the other as Olimpija tried to set the tone early. Sato hit a jumper for the Greens’ first points. Despite some aggressive defense that forced a few turnovers, shots started to fall with Fotsis’s triple and a Gregory slam thanks to some nice passing making it 5-4. The guards warmed up from outside with Ilievski and Diamantidis connecting from downtown. Markota added a three to knot the score at 10-10. The hosts started to build a promising lead with reserves Kostas Tsartsaris getting to the line and Nick Calathes driving to make it 18-12. Jagodnik came off the bench to answer for the visitors, however a Stratos Perperoglou triple raised the Green advantage to 7. Girogi Shermadini and Klemen Lorbek scored for the line for Olimpija, but Milenko Tepic did the same for Panathinaikos to take a 23-17 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Calathes pumped the lead to 9 with a dribble-drive, but Ilievski struck from behind the arc and Shermadini fed Gregory in the paint to make it 26-22. Jagodnik further slashed the Olimpija deficit. The hosts held on, but Olimpija did not go away. Ilievski found Pinkney inside to make it 29-28. After Fotsis scored on the offensive glass, Gregory scored and was fouled, but missed the resulting free throw – twice including a line violation – that would have tied the game. Sato scored on the break to push the hosts to 35-30 only to see Gregory answer with a triple. Sato finished the quarter with 2 more free throws and Ilievski missed a leaner at the buzzer to leave the halftime scoreboard showing 37-33.
Olimpija came out ready for the second half and although Sato scored first for the home team, 6 quick points knotted the score at 39-39 and then Markota corrected a Ozbolt miss to put the visitors ahead. Batiste soared on the offensive glass to re-tie the score. The teams went back and forth with the score being equal several more times before Dino Muric pushed the Olimpija cushion to 46-50. Panathinaikos got some momentum back when Fotsis’s slam attempt was partially blocked as Markota fouled him, but the ball bounced in anyway and the resulting foul shot made it a 1-point game. Perperoglou tied the score, but Olimpija answered as Ilievski spotted Shermadini for a slam. Ilievski drove to make it 50-54 through 30 minutes of action.
Ozbolt pulled up for a three and Olimpija’s biggest lead yet on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Muric floated in for a layup to make it 50-59. Panathinaikos did not fall apart, instead finding Kostas Kaimakoglou for a three-pointer and getting free throws from Sato. Gregory challenged Sato and Batiste and won, getting in the paint for a pull-up jumper. Drew Nicholas charged the crowd with a three-pointer, but the momentum faded when Sato committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Ozbolt. Nevertheless Batiste kept Panathinaikos in the picture at 60-64 with just over three minutes remaining. Pinkney responded from the line and after Diamantidis missed from downtown, Ozbolt went through the Green defense for an 8-point Olimpija lead. After a timeout, Nicholas sank a clutch triple and Panathinaikos turned up the defensive pressure. Then Perperoglou sank a three with 97 seconds left to cut the deficit to 66-68, prompting Olimpija head coach Jure Zdovc to call for timeout. However Ozbolt was fouled on the next play shooting a three and made all 3 from the line. Diamantidis twisted through the lane, but Gregory matched him to keep Olimpija ahead by 5. Diamantidis sank 2 from the line and Jagodnik countered the same way. Diamantidis made it 72-75 with 29.3 seconds remaining. Jagodnik matched him with 2 free throws with 15 seconds to play. Diamantidis quickly countered with a three to make it 75-77. Ilievski went to the line with 9.2 seconds left and made both to keep it a two-possession game. Markota fouled out and sent Diamantidis to the line with 6.8 seconds on the game clock. The Panathinaikos point guard made both and then Gregory inbounded the ball to Fotsis. Batiste went for a long jumper, missed, but Fotsis grabbed the rebound and beat the buzzer to tie the score at 79-79 and force an extra five minutes.
Ilievski stayed upbeat and drained a three to open the extra session. Nicholas matched him as the local crowd continued to sing. Diamantidis set up Batiste for a slam and Nicholas drained another three, leaving a stunned Olimpija to talk things over in a timeout. Jagodnik forced up a three and missed and Nicholas hit once more from behind the arc. Ilievski found Shermadini for a slam, to get Olimpija within 90-84. Perperoglou got to the basket, but Jagodnik kept the deficit at 6. However Fotsis hit a triple and despite a Gregory jumper, Olimpija was out of time and needed to walk away with a disheartening loss.
Thursday, December 9, 2010