A showdown between superpowers turned into a one-sided affair in Group B on Thursday as Regal FC Barcelona blew away visiting Panathinaikos 90-66 in a game that was never close after the first few minutes. Barcelona raised its record to 2-0 and shares first place in the group with Montepaschi Siena, while Panathinaikos fell to even at 1-1. A variety of offensive firepower and a defense that allowed Panathinaikos very few options spelled early dominance as Barcelona led by double digits after one quarter and never looked back. Juan Carlos Navarro paced the winners with 21 points and 4 assists. Ersan Ilyasova followed with 14 points and Fran Vazquez with 12. Roger Grimau and David Andersen added 9 each. Barça absolutely ruled the inside, winning 36-23 on the boards rebounds and holding Panathinaikos to 10-for-39 (29%) two-point shooting through three quarters, after which the difference rose as high as 32 points. Nikola Pekovic led the Greens with 15 points, while Mike Batiste had most of his 14 in the final quarter and Dimitris Diamantidis added 10. Panathinaikos saw 5 different players miss all of their two-point attempts, 13 in all among them.
Both teams tried to establish the interior game early, with Barcelona getting it right first as Santiago put in a pair of quick baskets. A back-in layup by Pekovic opened the Panathinaikos scoring, to which Diamantidis soon added a three-pointer to put the Greens ahead 4-5. Barton took the lead back for Barça before Navarro popped from downtown and dropped his patented "bomba" shot to make it 11-7. Panathinaikos kept looking for Pekovic, while Navarro found Sada in the corner for another triple and Santiago tipped in at 16-9. Mike Batiste and Ilyasova traded jump shots before an exchange of free throws left a 22-13 scoreboard. Batiste put back an offensive rebound, Vazquez hooked in Barcelona's answer as the hosts reached a 26-15 lead after 10 minutes.
Both defenses tightened early in the second quarter, but after a couple of tense minutes, Grimau put Barça further ahead with a downtown blast from the wing. By the time Andersen joined the scoring from the baseline, it was 31-16. Panathinaikos was getting one shot only, or losing the ball, as when Lakovic stole and fed Grimau. Jasikevicius stopped the bleeding with his team's first basket of the quarter and Fotsis soon drilled from long-range at 34-21. Lakovic replied by striking from deep himself, and when Navarro drove for a basket, Barça had its highest lead yet, 40-23. Panathinaikos reestablished Pekovic inside and Fotsis dunked behind Barcelona's zone. But Grimau got loose and Navarro blasted from deep and hooked in running "bomba" to close the first half with the hosts in charge at 50-33.
Backed by a raucous crowd, Barcelona did not let up after the break. The hosts scored the first 5 points of the third quarter on Santiago's next shot and a triple by Barton, while holding Panathinaikos 3 minutes without a basket. When Ilyasova and Vazquez shared 4 points in a row, the Barça lead was 59-36. Vazquez dunked again, Navarro and Ilyasova drove for layups and Andersen buried a short jumper as the difference soared to 27 points, 67-40. Panathinaikos managed only free throws until Sarunas Jasikevicius climbed off the bench and hit a runner, but the difference stood just as unexpectedly at 72-45 after three quarters.
The Barça lead topped out at 32 points, 80-48, after Andersen, Lakovic and Vazquez hit the first three field goals of the final quarter while Panathinaikos continued to settle for free throws. It was only then that the Greens reacted, as a pair of dunks by Batiste sandwiched around more free throws and Drew Nicholas's first basket, a triple, lowered the difference to 83-63. The Greens were working on the point spread and their pride now while Barcelona's fans were enjoyed some late shots by Navarro and Andersen that put the final score at 90-66 and left the home team sitting pretty after two blowout wins in the group.
Thursday, October 30, 2008