Diamantidis leads Panathinaikos to big home win
In an outstanding back-and-forth battle that literally went down to the final shot, Panathinaikos Athens registered its first win in Top 16 Group E by edging Unicaja Malaga 68-66 in the Greek capital on Friday. Both teams now have 1-1 records in Group E. Dimitris Diamantidis led the winners with 17 points and 7 assists. Sasha Pavlovic added 10 points for Unicaja. Jamar Smith led Unicaja with 22 points while Dani Diez grabbed 10 rebounds for the guests. Diez and Smith helped Unicaja to an early lead, 7-8. Panathinaikos found a go-to guy in Diamantidis, who led the Greens to a 21-17 lead after 10 minutes. A three-pointer by Edwin Jackson tied it at 24-24, but Diamantidis and James Feldeine fueled a 7-0 run to restore a 31-24 Panathinaikos margin. Unicaja recovered and a layup by Diez tied the game at 33-33, but Diamantidis and Nick Calathes put Panathinaikos back ahead, 37-33, at halftime. A three-pointer by Pavlovic gave Panathinaikos its biggest lead, 47-39, but an outstanding Smith brought Unicaja within 58-55 after 30 minutes. Carlos Suarez struck from downtown to complete his team's comeback at 61-62. Unicaja held a 64-66 lead already in the final minute, but a free throw by Gist and a go-ahead triple by Feldeine gave the Greens a 68-66 edge and Smith missed from downtown at the buzzer.
First quarter: Diamantidis shines early for Greens
Calathes got Panathinaikos going with a driving layup and bettered De Marcus Nelson's free throws with a corner triple that gave the Greens a 5-2 lead. Nelson kept pacing Unicaja with a put-back basket, which Vasilis Charalampopoulos matched with foul shots. Dani Diez shined with a backdoor layup, as Unicaja improved its defense. A four-meter jumper by Smith soon gave the guests their first lead, 7-8. James Feldeine scored in transition and a layup by Ognjen Kuzmic restored an 11-8 Panathinaikos lead. Diez took over with a fast break layup, before Sasha Pavlovic made free throws. A three-pointer by Smith tied it at 13-13. Diamantidis provided a highlight with a driving layup, which he followed with free throws. Alberto Diaz split foul shots and a catch-and-shoot triple by Edwin Jackson tied it again, 17-17. Miroslav Raduljica scored down low and a driving layup by Diamantidis gave the Greens a 21-17 edge after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Panathinaikos keeps slim lead
Fran Vazquez rescued Unicaja with a put-back slam early in the quarter. Antonis Fotsis made free throws and a step-back jumper by Jackson kept Unicaja within 23-21. Kuzmic split foul shots and a three-pointer by Jackson tied it at 24-24. Diamantidis nailed a triple off a Panathinaikos timeout and Calathes banked in a close shot to give the Greens some fresh air. Unicaja had started to take off-balance shots without much success and a steal by James Gist allowed Feldeine to give his team a 31-24 margin, prompting a Unicaja to call timeout. Smith beat the shot clock with an off-balance three-pointer and free throws by Diez kept Unicaja within 31-29. Diamantidis found Georgios Papagiannis for an alley-oop slam, but Will Thomas hit foul shots and a fast break layup by Diez tied it at 33-33. Diamantidis made free throws and Calathes restored a 37-33 Panathinaikos lead at halftime.
Third quarter: Unicaja keeps all options alive
Radujlica scored around the basket immediately after the break, but Richard Hendrix quickly answered with a jumper. Raduljica fed Gist for a close basket, but Thomas matched it with a one-handed dunk before a layup by Hendrix made it 41-39. Gist rescued Panathinaikos with a corner triple and Pavlovic copied him with a bomb from downtown that caused Unicaja to stop the game at 47-39. Gist split free throws to cap a 7-0 run, but Diaz stepped up with a three-pointer. Thomas split foul shots and Smith hit both attempts to bring Unicaja within 48-45. Calathes found Raduljica for a two-handed slam and after Vazquez nailed his trademark mid-range jumper, Pavlovic buried another triple for a 53-47 Panathinaikos lead. Smith and Diamantidis joined the three-point shootout, as Calathes headed to the bench with 4 fouls. Smith kept pushing Unicaja with back-to-back jumpers to bring his team within 58-55.
Fourth quarter: down till the final shot
Both teams struggled to score early in the fourth quarter until a red-hot Smith shined with a driving layup. Panathinaikos struggled to score for almost two minutes until Kuzmic took over with a three-point play. Nemanja Nedovic hit a mid-range jumper and a three-pointer by Carlos Suarez completed Unicaja's comeback, 61-62. The Greens struggled against the guests' 2-3 zone defense and brought Calathes back in the game to improve their ball circulation. Smith swished another jumper and an off-balance basket by Pavlovic brought Panathinaikos within 63-64 with three3 minutes left. Diamantidis split free throws, but a dunk by Thomas put Unicaja back ahead, 64-66. Calathes missed twice from downtown, but great defense gave Panathinaikos the ball back with 34.4 seconds remaining. Gist drew a foul and split free throws with 23.8 seconds left. He missed his second attempt, but the Greens got the ball back, as Thomas could not grab the offensive board. Diamantidis found Feldeine for a three-pointer that restored a 68-66 Panathinaikos edge with 11.4 seconds left. Unicaja had a chance to win the game, but Smith missed from downtown at the buzzer.
Friday, January 8, 2016