Barcelona storms past Greens to first place, 67-80
FC Barcelona took the high road to a first-place finish in regular season Group C by dominating Panathinaikos Athens on the road Friday for a 67-80 victory. After an hour-long delay at halftime, when the arena was evacuated for a security sweep following an alleged bomb threat, Panathinaikos erased most of 17-point deficit that Barcelona took into the break on the strength of a 11-0 first-quarter run. But Barcelona soon roared back to take control until the finish and raise its record to 9-1, the second-best mark of the regular season. Panathinaikos fell to 5-5 but was sure to be third, despite a tie with EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, due to a tiebreak advantage. Marcelinho Huertas orchestrated the victory with 17 points, 9 assists, while Deshaun Thomas added 15. Maciej Lampa added a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Mario Hezonja scored 9 more. Barcelona's defense held Panathinaikos to just 23 points in the first half, and by the end the Greens had only two double-digit scorers, Antonis Fotsis with 14 points and Loukas Mavrokefalidis with 10. Panathinaikos played without team leader Dimitris Diamantidis, but saw point guard DeMarcus Nelson return from injury to play his first Euroleague game in green.
FIRST QUARTER: Huertas leads Barcelona break
Fotsis pulled 2 quick rebounds and threaded a pass to Batista for the game's first basket. Huertas pulled up for Barcelona's first points, just as Pappas did at the other end to put Panathinaikos up 4-2. Hezonja finished a broken play with a fastbreak dunk that Giankovits answered with a runner on the shot clock buzzer. Huertas forged another tie, 6-6, with another shot from the lane. Huertas was in double-threat mode as he winged one pass to Doellman for an easy layup and another to Hezonja for a three-pointer and a sudden 6-11 Barcelona advantage. Doellman added free throws to the lead before Thomas made a one-handed fade-away hook and a put-back to make it a double-digit difference, 6-17. Pappas ended his team's drought at the free throw line, but immediately Thomas drilled a triple, the game's first, and then 1 of 2 free throws to make it 8-21. Mavrokefalidis climbed off the Panathinaikos bench in time to bank in the quarter's last shot, nonetheless Barcelona was in control, 10-21.
SECOND QUARTER: Visitors defense stretched the gap
Fotsis uncorked a corner triple to start the second-quarter scoring and Mavrokefalidis added a jumper as Panathinaikos quickly pulled within 15-21, forcing a Barcelona timeout. Huertas, left alone, nailed a three-pointer to end his team's dry run and waltzed for a layup to push the difference back to double-digits, 15-26. Janis Blums struck back on a fade-away triple, but Maciej Lampe put back consecutive offensive rebounds to keep Barcelona up 18-30. Lampe's third consecutive layup forced a Panathinaikos timeout, after which Pappas hit a pair of free throws. Bostjan Nachbar added his name to Barcelona's scoring list with a baseline turnaround. While Panathinaikos was limited to free throws for points, Tomas Satoransky raced for a dunk and Tomic found Huertas alone for a layup that made it 21-38. Gist got 2 points back at the line but Huertas matched those as Barcelona completed a formidable first half ahead 23-40.
THIRD QUARTER: Greens follow Gist back into game
After a nearly one-hour delay due to the security sweep, A.J. Slaughter and Huertas came out scoring with 5 and 4 points, respectively, without a single miss. Giankovits added free throws to reduce the difference to 31-44. Tomic matched the free throws before Giankovits hooked in a shot from the post at 33-35. Henzonja broke loose for a dunk, but Fotsis answered with his own and then buried a triple to trim the gap to single digits, 38-47. Tomic answered with a dunk fed to him by Huertas, and after a timeout, Thomas saved a broken play with a jumper at 38-51. Gist hit a nice finger roll, and then Nelson drove for his first 2 points of the season. When Barcelona left Gist wide open for a triple, he swished it and suddenly the Greens were as close as 47-53, forcing a Barcelona timeout. Thomas steadied the visitors with a jumper before Navarro got his first point at the foul line. Doellman scored a third-change basket inside and Lampe detonated a dunk as Barcelona pulled away again to a double-digit lead, 47-60, after 30 minutes.
FOURTH QUARTER: Barcelona slams the door
Satoransky opened the fourth quarter by adding a three-pointer to Barcelona's lead, after which the visitors were content to trade baskets and then some. Hezonja made a reverse alley-oop look easy at 51-69. Despite a couple baskets by Mavrokefalidis, Nachbar and Tibor Pleiss returned to keep the Barcelona score ticking. Pappas, Vasilis Charalampopoulous and Giankovits worked to keep the difference from getting too big, but Panathinaikos was unable to threaten the lead the rest of the way as Barcelona finished off a stellar regular season in style.