Crvena Zvezda completed sweep of Panathinaikos
In an exciting and highly-entertaining clash of two playoff hopefuls, Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade held off Panathinaikos Athens 69-67 in a jam-packed Kombank Arena in the Serbian capital on Friday night. Both teams now have 6-4 records in Group E and Zvezda’s sweep of the series gives it third place in the standings over Panathinaikos, which sits in fourth. The night started with a moment of silence for the passing of Mr. Dragan Nikolic, one of Serbia's most popular actors and a Crvena Zvezda Media Person Award winner. The Greens, led by James Gist, took control early, and led by as many as 9 points in the first half, but Zvezda rallied to within 28-31 at halftime and then used a 15-4 charge in the third quarter to build an 11-point margin. The lead increased to 55-42 early in the fourth, but Elliot Williams caught fire, fueling a 0-13 run that got things square at 55-55. However, Panathinaikos never went in front again, as Tarance Kinsey and Quincy Miller made key plays down the stretch to bring joy to the home fans. Kinsey scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half, and Miller finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks in victory. Nemanja Dangubic contributed with 9 points for Zvezda. Williams netted 15 of his 17 points after halftime for Panathinaikos which saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Big man Miroslav Raduljica collected 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals for the visitors, and Gist scored all of his 9 points in the first half in defeat.
First quarter: Panathinaikos shakes off slow start in style
Both teams struggled to score in the first two minutes, probably overwhelmed by the outstanding basketball atmosphere at Kombank Arena. Kinsey got Zvezda going with free throws and Dangubic copied him right after that for a 4-0 lead. Panathinaikos committed 4 turnovers in as many minutes, but Gist rescued the Greens with a huge alley-oop slam. Dangubic kept pushing Zvezda with a turnaround jumper, which Sasha Pavlovic matched with a power layup. Raduljica scored off a spin move in the low post and collected a steal, which allowed Nick Calathes to give Panathinaikos its first lead, 6-8. Raduljica made free throws and a dunk by Gist boosted the Greens' edge to 6-12, after a 0-10 run. Miller struck from downtown, but Gist took over with another huge alley-oop dunk and Pavlovic added a jumper for a 9-16 advantage. Vasilije Micic split free throws and a reverse layup by Ognjen Kuzmic gave Panathinaikos a 10-18 lead after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Zvezda closes the gap
Vladimir Stimac split free throws early in the quarter, but Zvezda kept committing turnovers - 9 in 11 minutes - and was outrebounded 5-10 by the Greens until that point. Raduljica remained on fire with a put-back layup, which Marko Simonovic matched with a backdoor basket to make it 13-20. Panathinaikos called timeout and faced early trouble with Raduljica heading to the bench with 3 fouls. Micic split free throws and a driving layup by James Feldeine gave Panathinaikos a 14-22 cushion. Stimac ignited the crowd with a slam, but Gist did better with an off-balance triple. After free throws from Miller and Zirbes, Vince Hunter had a tip-in. Kinsey cut it to 22-27 with a corner triple, but Hunter dunked. But foul shots from Kinsey and Zirbes brought Zvezda within 28-31 at halftime.
Third quarter: Home team makes a big run
A jumper apiece from Jovic and Kinsey tied the game at 32-32. Jovic took it coast-to-coast for a layup, then dished a no-look pass for a Miller dunk and a 4-point lead. Kuzmic had a layup-plus foul on the other end that snapped an 8-1 run, but Dangubic hit a wide-open triple, Kinsey added another short jumper and Zibes scored a layup for a 43-35 lead with Kombank Arena erupting. After a timeout, MarQuez Haynes knocked down a three-pointer for Panathinaikos, but Kinsey made a pair of foul shots and a jumper in transition to open a 9-point margin. Feldeine hit a long jumper for the visitors, but Micic answered with a driving layup and Guduric added a reverse layup to make it 51-40. Haynes made a corner jumper, but Miller gave the hosts a 53-42 advantage.
Fourth quarter: Kinsey and Miller help Zvezda hold on
Micic drove for a layup on the opening possession of the quarter to make the margin 13 points. However, Williams made free throws and buried a jumper before Nick Calathes picked Guduric’s pocket and raced for layup to cut the margin to 55-48. After a Zvezda timeout, Williams strung together 7 points, a run that featured him making 3 of 4 free throws and a pair of jumpers, including a step-back shot that tied it at 55-55 with 5:55 to play, forcing another timeout by Zvezda. Miller battled for a tough spinning runner to snap a 0-13 run, and Kinsey made 2 from the foul line. Raduljica slammed home a put-back for the Greens, but Miller’s foul shots restored a 4-point gap. The hosts made two defensive stands, before a short jumper from Kinsey put Zvezda ahead 63-57. After a Panathinaikos timeout, Zvezda forced another turnover and Zirbes split free throws to get the lead to 7. Raduljica kept Panathinaikos’s hopes alive with a three-point play and Williams buried a three-pointer with 27 seconds left to cut the deficit to 64-63. But Williams fouled out a second later and Dangubic made a pair of free throws. After Calathes only split foul shots on the other end, Dangubic fed Miller for a basket-plus-foul that sealed the deal with 9.7 seconds to go at 69-64. Pavlovic’s triple only rounded out the scoring with Zvezda’s fans and players already celebrating a huge win.
Friday, March 11, 2016