A dream colored green remains alive after Panathinaikos became the first team to advance to the Final Four by downing Dynamo 65-73 on the road in Moscow on Thursday to sweep their best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs series 2-0. Panathinaikos had also won the series opener in Athens on Tuesday. With the second victory, Panathinaikos fulfilled its long-held plan to play the Final Four in its own building, Athens Olympic Indoor Hall (OAKA) in the Greek capital. The Greens will face the winner of the quarterfinal series between Tau Ceramica and Olympiacos in one of the single-game semifinals to be played on Friday, May 4. Ramunas Siskauskas led Panathinaikos with 19 points on Thursday, hitting 4 of 6 three-point attempts. Dimitris Diamantidis added 11 points for the winners and Mike Batiste had 10. Lazaros Papadopoulos scored 13 points for Dynamo while Antonis Fotsis had 11. Strong defense and leadership by Diamantidis allowed Panathinaikos to take a 30-36 halftime lead after having been ahead by double digits a couple times in the second quarter. After the break, Panathinaikos found a go-to guy in Siskauskas, whose 13 points in the third quarter helped build leads as high as 17 points. Dynamo never really recovered, allowing the Greens to keep fighting for Euroleague glory.
Papadopoulos got Dynamo started with a basket in the low post that Kostas Tsartsaris matched with a put-back for Panathinaikos. Dynamo kept looking for Papadopoulos early, but Tsartsaris and Batiste double-teamed him as often as possible. Just as in Game 1, Dimitris Diamantidis started to give Bojan Popovic trouble on defense. Diamantidis hit free throws while Batiste scored twice in transition for a 2-8 Panathinaikos lead. Dynamo called timeout to make adjustments to its offense, and the new plan worked as Fotsis came out and buried a three-pointer while Papadopoulos scored down low to make it 7-8. Nikos Hatzivrettas came off the bench and immediately hit a mid-range shot for Panathinaikos, however. Popovic got to the line for 2 good free throws, and when Diamantidis scored in penetration, also answered with the first triple of the game for a 12-12 tie. Another Panathinaikos sub put his stamp on the quarter as Dejan Tomasevic followed a layup with a quick drop-step basket in the low post to give the Greens a 12-16 edge after 10 minutes.
Obinna Ekezie joined the game at the start of the second quarter and immediately hit a four-meter shot for Dynamo. Sergei Bykov followed a driving layup with a fastbreak dunk to give Dynamo a lead back at 18-16 lead. Dimos Dikoudis immediately tied again for Panathinaikos, which looked for Diamantidis in the low post to get advantage against Bykov and Dimitri Khvostov. Dynamo entered the foul bonus too early, however, and Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic called timeout to make the most out of this advantage. Diamantidis buried a running jumper and soon added a three-pointer to give the Greens a 20-25 lead. Panathinaikos opted to attack the basket and go to the foul line often. As such, Sani Becirovic and Siskauskas made free throws for a 21-29 lead. Yuri Vasiliyev and Hatzivrettas traded triples while Becirovic banked in a short shot to boost the Greens' lead to double digits, 24-34. Sergey Monya hit free throws and Bykov added a fast break layup for Dynamo. Batiste provided a highlight with a big dunk but a put-back basket by Vasilyev got Dynamo within 30-36 at halftime.
The Greens went for the kill right after the break by relying on the duo of Batiste and Diamantidis. Batiste nailed a baseline jumper to start the half and took an alley-oop pass from Diamantidis to restore a double-digit lead, 30-40. Papadopoulos scored again in the middle, but that's when Siskauskas caught fire. He stroked twice from downtown to boost the lead to 32-47 and force a Dynamo timeout. The hosts came out and suffered a shot-clock violation before Siskauskas buried another shot to cap a 2-13 run since halftime that made it a 17-point game, 32-49. Then, at long last, Dynamo's shooters started hitting. Fotsis nailed the first shot from downtown, then after a short jumper by Papadoupoulos that Becirovic matched, returned for another triple to give Dynamo some hope at 40-51. Siskauskas was there to answer, however, with his third triple before Dimitri Domani and Taquan Dean joined the three-point shootout for Dynamo. The hosts could only dent the lead, however, as free throws by Becirovic and the ever-present Siskauskas let Panathinaikos weather Dynamo's first scoring burst and still lead 46-58 after three quarters.
Vasilyev got Dynamo going with a tough jumper early in the final quarter, but otherwise the hosts struggled to turn things around. Dimitris Papanikolaou shined with a layup-plus-free throw for Panathinaikos. Popovic fouled out with 8 minutes to go, but Dynamo kept fighting. Papadopoulos hit free throws and Dean nailed a triple to get the hosts within 53-62. The threat faded, however, as Dikoudis made foul shots and Milos Vujanic buried a shot from the arc that effectively sealed the outcome at 53-67 midway through the fourth quarter. Dynamo never gave up, as Khvostov followed a layup with a triple for a 60-69 score. Fotsis made foul shots but Siskauskas answered from downtown to make sure that Panathinaikos put the victory on ice, 62-72, with 2 minutes to go. Dynamo had a tough end to an otherwise fantastic Euroleague season, while Panathinaikos turned its attention to its next Euroleague home game at the Final Four on May 4.
Thursday, April 5, 2007