Zvezda downs Panathinaikos in Athens for maiden Group E victory
In a tough, defensive showdown that went down to the final minutes, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade registered its first win in Top 16 Group E by downing Panathinaikos Athens 63-74 in front of 11,000 fans in the Greek capital on Thursday. Both teams now have 1-2 records in Group E. Maik Zirbes led the winners with 12 points, Branko Lazic and Vladimir Stimac each added 11 while Stefan Jovic flirted with a triple-double and finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists for Zvezda. James Gist led Panathinaikos with 15 points and James Feldeine and Miroslav Raduljica each had 12 for the hosts. Stimac and Nemanja Dangubic shined early to give Zvezda a 14-16 lead after 10 minutes. A coast-to-coast layup by Feldeine gave Panathinaikos its last lead, 28-26. Zvezda found a go-to guy in Zirbes, who helped the visitors restore a 34-38 lead at halftime. Raduljica brought the Greens within 48-50, but a 0-9 run that Marko Guduric capped with a fast break layup boosted Zvezda's lead to 48-59 early in the fourth quarter. Lazic and Zirbes helped the visitors keep a safe margin from that moment until the final buzzer.
First quarter: Visitors shine on defense to take lead
Gist got Panathinaikos going with a put-back layup, which Ognjen Kuzmic followed with a second-chance basket for a 4-0 lead. Zvezda was held scoreless for more than two minutes until Tarence Kinsey banked in a close shot. Panathinaikos kept dominating the game with good defense, not allowing Zvezda to get Quincy Miller or Zirbes involved. The Greens also struggled to score, however, and a layup by Dangubic tied it at 4-4. Raduljica sank a jump hook, which Stimac erased with a layup. Gist found Nick Calathes for a fast break layup before Dangubic nailed a four-meter jumper. Calathes split free throws and a three-pointer by Jovic gave Zvezda its first lead, 9-11. Dimitris Diamantidis answered from downtown, but Lazic shined with a layup-plus-foul and a jump hook by Stimac boosted the guests' lead to 12-16. A dunk by Georgios Papagiannis brought Panathinaikos within 14-16 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Zirbes keeps Zvezda in charge
Vladimir Jankovic nailed a three-pointer early in the quarter, as Panathinaikos regained momentum on defense with big blocks by Papagiannis and Antonis Fotsis. Lazic rescued the guests with a bomb from downtown, which prompted Panathinaikos to call timeout at 17-19. Diamantidis made free throws, but Simonovic had a block on Calathes and hit a three-pointer at the other end for a 19-22 Zvezda edge. Calathes finished a great Panathinaikos play with a fast break layup and Kuzmic bettered Maik Zirbes's jump hook with a three-point play. Zirbes split foul shots, but Feldeine followed a coast-to-coast layup with free throws for a 28-26 Panathinaikos lead. Miller knocked down a couple of free throws and an unstoppable Zirbes gave Zvezda the lead, 28-32. Gist drew a foul and hit both attempts from the line, but Zirbes scored down low and a dunk by Dangubic made it a 5-point game. Kinsey scored again, but Papagiannis and a buzzer-beating layup by Gist fixed the halftime score at 34-38.
Third quarter: Stimac keeps visitors ahead
Jovic buried one from beyond the arc immediately after the break, as Panathinaikos struggled to organize its offense and committed a couple of turnovers. A red-hot Jovic fired in an eight-meter triple to give Zvezda its first double-digit lead, 34-44. The Greens were held scoreless for more than three minutes until Feldeine stepped up with a driving layup. Miller took over with a big basket off a spin move that caused Panathinaikos call timeout at 36-46. Calathes tried to change things with a backdoor layup and a jump hook by Raduljica gave the Greens hope at 40-46. Stimac scored around the basket, but Raduljica provided a highlight with a big dunk off the baseline and soon added free throws that made it a 4-point game. After Kinsey fed Stimac for a layup, Feldeine answered with a second-chance basket and a jump hook by Raduljica brought Panathinaikos even closer, 48-50. Stimac scored again and a jumper by Vasilije Micic gave Zvezda a 48-54 edges.
Fourth quarter: Zvezda holds on for historic win
Micic buried a three-pointer early in the quarter and a dunk by Guduric made it an 11-point game. Panathinaikos called timeout and Feldeine took over with a bomb from downtown. Simonovic scored in transition, but he didn't find much help around. Meanwhile, Raduljica answered with a two-handed slam to get within 53-61. Zvezda improved its defense when it mattered most, as the Greens even missed free throw attempts. Meanwhile, a three-pointer by Lazic sealed the outcome, 53-64, with four minutes to go. Kinsey made free throws and Stimac split attempts, but Gist brought Panathinaikos a bit closer, 58-67. Lazic and Zirbes buried foul shots, as both teams were now fighting for point difference. Panathinaikos never gave up, but Zvezda went back to Belgrade with a good-as-gold road win.
Thursday, January 14, 2016