By Eurohoops team / firstname.lastname@example.org
DeShaun Thomas scored a season-high 27 points on 5/6 3-pointers as Panathinaikos defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 96 – 81 to return to wins following back-to-back away defeats to Valencia and Crvena Zvezda.
Thomas also drained a triple from near halfcourt to beat the halftime buzzer and put Panathinaikos up 46 – 40. Zenit was making a massive comeback attempt from down 22 and managed to approach 42 – 40. The “Greens” once again grabbed a double-digit advantage at the end of the third period and remained in control for the remainder of the match.
“Guys played tougher, I guess my teammates gave me the ball when I needed it, and I made those shots,” Thoms said to EuroLeague TV. “We are just believing in ourselves, we had to come together [in the second half]. We strapped down defensively and we believed in our confidence, in ourselves. And I knocked the shots down. We came together. We know that that big shot from half-court changed the momentum.”
Gustavo Ayon dropped 21 points for a depleted Zenit squad. The Russian side traveled to Athens minus wing Mateusz Ponitka, guard Alex Renfroe and center Colton Iverson. Panathinaikos was without forward Ioannis Papapetrou.
Tyrese Rice added 15 points and five assists for Panathinaikos while Dinos Mitoglou had 11 points. Rick Pitino’s team had a productive offensive outing and shot 12/28 from beyond the arc while collecting 14 offensive rebounds against Zenit’s six.
“We lost the battle of the rebounds; we got like 16 points off the offensive rebounds and a 40-24 difference is a big difference,” Zenit coach Joan Plaza said. “Also, we had almost 20 turnovers and we shot worse than them from the free throw line, just 50%, which is really poor. But even with these problems, we were still in the game and that means that we have to understand why we started that bad, horrible, like we did.”
Panathinaikos improved to 14 – 10 while Zenit fell to 7 – 17.
Too many turnovers
Panathinaikos coach Rick Pitino was pleased with a win but he’d be happier if he saw fewer turnovers than the 20 his players committed.
After an average start, it was a brilliant first quarter tonight, but we are an offensive basketball team trying to get better defensively and if we turn the ball over we are just a mediocre team. 20 turnovers are way too many for a team like us,” Pitino said in the post-game presser. “We can’t do that without beating ourselves, so we’ll work on that. But it’s a good victory. We are fighting for the playoff spot and it’s going to take probably 18 wins. If you break down the Euroleague schedule, we got by far not only more road games but we’ve got to play six of the best teams, so every win is crucial for us to get a playoff spot.