Panathinaikos started Group C with a valuable road win by beating Unicaja 75-83 in Malaga, Spain, on Wednesday night. The Greens opened the Euroleague with a win and will host CSKA in Game 2, while Unicaja dropped to 0-1 in the standings and will visit Tau Ceramica next week. Vlado Scepanovic led the winners with 20 points, helping the guests to break the game in the third period. Jaka Lakovic added 16 points for the Greens, 14 of them in the final period, while Kostas Tsartsaris followed with 14, including 4 of 4 two-point shooting. Jorge Garbajosa had 16 points for Unicaja, J.R. Bremer 14, Berni Rodriguez 12 on 4 of 5 three-pointers and Carlos Cabezas 11 on 8 of 8 free throws.
Panathinaikos opened the game with a three-pointer by Hatzivrettas as the shot clock expired, which Tsartsaris followed with a layup in penetration as the Greens led 2-5. Herrmann fired back with a wild dunk, while Cabezas made a downtown shot to put Unicaja in front 7-5. Unicaja alternated defenses as the game turned into a prime-time defensive battle. Herrmann drilled a three from the left corner, but Tsartsaris and Darryl Middleton kept the Greens close. Fran Vazquez followed 2 free throws by Cabezas with a breakaway dunk to give the hosts a 16-12 margin, which Giorgos Kalaitzis and Tsartsaris soon erased. Cabezas had the final word, however, climbing to 9 points himself with 2 more free throws to give the hosts a 18-16 edge after 10 minutes.
The Greens rolled in the opening minutes of the second quarter with a strong man-to-man defense that helped forge a new lead, 18-20, on a basket by Middleton. It didn't last long, however, as Unicaja fired back with a long three by Bremer, which Pepe Sanchez followed with a mid-range jumper for a 23-20 lead. Only Scepanovic scored during the next 2 minutes, giving Panathinaikos a 23-24 edge. Both teams struggled to score until Garbajosa popped a three-pointer from the left corner, which Gintaras Einikis followed with put-back layup to power the hosts to a 29-26 lead. Even with that, Patrick Femerling added a three-point play for the Greens, while Dimitris Diamantidis scored 5 points in the final minute, including a wild three from the top of the key, to give Panathinaikos a 31-34 margin at halftime. The Greens outrebounded their opponents by 10-16 in the opening half.
A three-pointer by youngster Dusan Sakota opened a 0-7 Panathinaikos run capped by Scepanovic's free throws which gave the Greens a 32-41 lead. It didn't last long, however, as Bremer and Herrmann helped Unicaja to make it a four-point game, 39-43, midway through the third. Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic called timeout, and the Greens carried on looking for Sakota and Scepanovic, who became the team's go-to guys to give Panathainaikos a 43-50 margin. Both teams went scoreless for almost two minutes until Scepanovic drilled its first bomb from downtown to boost the Greens' lead to a game-high 43-53. Bremer made 2 foul shots to bring Unicaja within 45-53 entering the fourth.
It was do-or-die time for Unicaja, but Tsartsaris opened the final period with one from beyond the arc and a tip-in to keep Panathinaikos' lead in double digits, 48-58. Garbajosa tried to wake Unicaja up with a fast break dunk off a steal, but Lakovic appeared from nowhere to silence the crowd with a three-pointer. The hosts called timeout, and Garbajosa answered from downtown, but once again Scepanovic and Lakovic answered from three range to keep his team out of trouble at 53-67 with 5 minutes to go. Garbajosa was on fire, but the Greens always found the way to break Unicaja's alternative defenses. Free throws by Lakovic, who woke up in the final period, and Hatzivrettas boosted the guests' lead to 56-70. The outcome was clear, and even when 2 threes by Rodriguez helped Unicaja to cut the Greens' lead to 67-72, Hatzivrettas, Lakovic and the ever-present Scepanovic sealed the outcome in the final 2 minutes.
Wednesday, November 3, 2004