Kapono shines as PAO defeats Zalgiris

By George Georgakopoulos

Panathinaikos edged out in-form Zalgiris Kaunas 67-66 in Athens in its opening game for the top-16 of the Euroleague on Friday, in a game where new signing Jason Kapono shone with his back-to-back three-pointers in the first half.

Playing without injured Sofoklis Schortsanitis and with captain Dimitris Diamantidis featuring for no more than four minutes after his injury, Panathinaikos resorted to help from the recent additions to its roster as Kapono and Marcus Banks practically won the game for the Greens.

An amazing seven-minute spell in the first half saw Kapono, a former NBA champion, score 14 points including four three-pointers, to take the host’s lead to a maximum 15 points (38-23).

Zalgiris, which earlier this season had beaten Olympiakos in Piraeus, fought back and after trailing by 10 at half-time (43-33) it got the upper hand in the game toward the end leading 62-58.

Banks took the situation upon himself with a crucial three-pointer and a spectacular assist to put the Greens back in the driving seat, before committing a turnover seven seconds from time with the score at 67-66. However, that error did not cost victory to Panathinaikos, as Darjus Lavrinovic missed the target in his last shot in the dying seconds.

Kapono scored 16 points overall with 4/6 three-pointers, while Mike Bramos added another 15, all from five three-pointers.