Panathinaikos, which trounced Unicaja 82-56
Panathinaikos routed Unicaja Malaga 82-56 on Thursday night at the Athens Indoor Olympic Hall to strengthen its hold of Group E in Top 16, Week 2. Panathinaikos improved to 2-0, while dropping Unicaja to 0-2. Kostas Tsartsaris paced the winners with 14 points and 8 rebounds, while Mike Batiste added 12 and 5 boards and Startos Perperoglou scored 10. Panathinaikos capitalized on a 43-28 rebounding edge. Unicaja displayed resiliency despite falling behind before the half. Joel Freeland scored 11 points and Rod Blakney added 10 in defeat for the visitors, who combined to make only 4-of-23 from three-point range. The Greens travel next week to challenge Caja Laboral in Spain, while Unicaja will play at home against Lietuvos Rytas.
Carlos Jimenez paced Unicaja early on with good penetration, as the visitors built a narrow lead, 5-6. Without Robert Archibald and Uros Tripkovic in the lineup, head coach Chus Mateo tried to run a bit on Panathinaikos, and Berni Rodriguez proved as much when he assisted Freeland beautifully for an alley-oop. But, when Panathinaikos wasn’t executing flawless pick-and-rolls, it was posting up Batiste and attacking the offensive glass en route to a 12-8 advantage. As Unicaja struggled with its perimeter shooting, Mateo opted to get center Nedzad Sinanovic more involved. The game was slow-paced and the hosts defended well, while getting into a rhythm offensively. Antonis Fotsis scored his first triple to put them ahead 19-13 and the lead seemed to give Panathinaikos a confidence boost, as a three-point play by Tsartsaris ensued and the forward managed 7 straight points to close the quarter with a 26-13 advantage for the Greek champs.
Panathinaikos capped a 12-0 run after the break and kept on going. Batiste was a force as both ends, keeping Sinanovic in check, and a Freeland basket was countered with another run, emphasized by a huge Batiste block of a Simanovic. The lead reached 37-19 after a Nick Calathes layup. It was the biggest margin to that point. Down in a deep hole, Saul Blanco finally hit a well-executed jumper, but Malaga was unable to capitalize on offensive rebounds and Antonis Fotsis never let up at the other end, penetrating and scoring on a layup for a 21-point lead Rodriguez was finally able to break Panathinaikos’s full-court press by swishing his team’s first three-pointer. Still, the Greens were able to muster the half’s final bucket through Dimitris Diamantidis, setting the scoreboard at 45-25 at the break.
The second half seemed poised for more visiting frustration when Fotsis started things off with a triple, but Unicaja showed poise and resiliency in the third quarter, scoring 5 straight points and countering a Stratos Perperoglou triple and a gutsy pick-and-roll drive and layup by Drew Nicholas with tight defense and a Blakney beyond-the-arc rainbow that scored it 57-37. The hosts showed no mercy with another Romain Sato long-range bomb right after, and still Malaga kept at it, scoring on a nifty alley-oop play that made it 60-39 and moving the ball swiftly. The shots just weren’t falling when Panathinaikos’s defense creaked open. And those chances were few and far between. Hammering the point home, the hosts scored 8 straight to seal the period, the last on a Calathes layup off a steal and assist from Sato. With the difference then at 68-39, the final quarter lurked more as a punishment than a chance for Unicaja.
Undermanned and overwhelmed, Mateo’s crew still showed heart down the stretch, full-court pressing on defense even after Tsatsaris dunked one home, forcing steals and shooting from the perimeter. Even down 72-49, Rodriguez earned a technical foul after a gutsy layup in traffic and substitute Pablo Almazan nailed a nice triple. But Panathinaikos had pretty much earned a cruise-control stretch to the finish at that point, and head coach Zeljko Obradovic holstered his big guns in the final minutes, as Unicaja exhaled. The visiting squad still wasn’t able to clean up the score much, but did manage to win the quarter, 14-17. At least something to build on during the return flight home.
Thursday, January 27, 2011