Valencia survives PAO’s last quarter rally
Valencia Basket lived an exciting basketball night by holding off Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 94-87 at La Fonteta. The hosts overpowered the Greek firepower during the first three quarters, entering the final period dominating by 80-64. But a great comeback by the Greens, based on a great defensive effort to hold Valencia scoreless for five minutes, tied the game at 82-82, before Bojan Dubljevic and Alberto Abalde came up big in crunch time to seal the outcome. Valencia improved to 11-11 to keep a playoff spot, while Panathinaikos saw its three-game winning streak ended and drops to 13-9. Valencia was led by Dubljevic, who scored 19 points on 8-of-9 two-point shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds. Quino Colom, Aaron Doornekamp and Guillem Vives followed him with 14, 13 and 12 points respectively, including 9-of-14 triples combined. For Panathinaikos, Nick Calathes posted a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds, Tyrese Rice scored 21 and DeShaun Thomas added 16 defeat.
Both teams had a vigorous start offensively, trading baskets and leads in a dazzling spectacle. Panathinaikos took a 7-10 edge behind a pair of three-pointers by Jimmer Fredette and Calathes, but the hosts bounced back by feeding Dubljevic inside and finding Doornekamp from behind the arc to make it 16-12. Dubljevic remained hot with 5 points in a row to keep Valencia in front, but a run led by Rice allowed the visitors to finish the first period trailing 27-25. After Rice assisted Wesley Johnson to tie it, Fernando San Emeterio came up big and led a 15-2 run in which he scored 8 points including a couple of treys to build a 42-29 lead midway though the second. Rice again took over for the visitors to shut down Valencia’s momentum, connecting twice from downtown to make it 46-37. Calathes, Thomas and Ioannis Papapetrou joined him to cap a 4-14 run, but Valencia bounced back as Abalde, Vives and Colom added three-pointers in three consecutive possessions to establish a 55-45 halftime lead. Calathes and Fredette scored difficult baskets to get Panathinaikos within 55-50 right after the break, but Valencia found timely back-to-back three-pointers from Vives and Louis Labeyrie. Panathinaikos kept pushing, though, with consecutive triples by Thomas and Ben Bentil and another bucket by Rice making it 65-62. Valencia responded from deep again as Colom and Doornekamp repeated from downtown before Maurice N’Dour converted an alley-oop to the enter the last period up by 80-64. The visitors dug deep, however, as Calathes inspired a 0-13 run to reduce the deficit to single digits. Valencia remained scoreless for almost five minutes before Dubljevic ended the drought to make it 82-77. Calathes tied it at 82-82, but Valencia found an answer again from long range as Doornekamp hit his fourth triple entering the last three minutes. Papapetrou and Thomas made it a one-possession game from the line, before Calathes fouled out with 1:19 to play. Labeyrie sunk a couple of free-throws to build an 88-84 lead, but Rice’s three-point play made it 88-87 entering the last minute. Dubljevic and Abalde then took over, as the former scored a basket, drew the foul and grabbed the offensive rebound to allow a powerful dunk by the latter. Another layup by Abalde got the fans on their feet as Valencia secured another valuable home win.
Bojan Dubljevic once again proved his importance in Valencia’s rotation. In addition to his regular scoring and rebounding contribution, 'Dubi' became pivotal in crunch time when he scored a basket, drew a foul, and grabbed the offensive rebound after missing the free-throw to give Valencia another possession that Alberto Abalde finished with a dunk to make it 92-87 with 45 seconds to go.
It’s not the first time Valencia used the three-point line to win tight games. The Spanish side scored 17 triples to beat Baskonia at home in Round 14 and poured in 16 to defeat Zenit St Petersbourg on the road in Round 9. Against Panathinaikos, the hosts nailed 14, many of them in crucial moments.
Visitors save the tie-breaker
Even though it could not win in the end, Panathinaikos did secure the head to head advantage over Valencia thanks to a 91-80 victory over Valencia earlier in the season.
Valencia is back in action on Wednesday when it hosts FC Barcelona. Panathinaikos heads to Serbia to challenge Cvrena Zvezda the same day in Round 23 next week.
Friday, January 31, 2020