Diamantidis lifts Panathinaikos, evens series
Dimitris Diamantidis and Stephane Lasme came through with the game on the line to lift Panathinaikos to a series-tying 65-66 victory over Barcelona Regal on Thursday night at Palau Blaugrana. Former MVP Diamantidis nailed a go-ahead three-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining and Lasme rejected scoring king Juan Carlos Navarro’s runner in the final seconds as the Greens squared the best-of-five series at 1-1. Action resumes in the Greek capital next week. James Gist paced Panathinaikos with 14 points and 7 rebounds, Michael Bramos followed with 13 points, Diamantidis scored 10 and Lasme tallied 9 points, 7 boards and three blocks as the Greens snapped Barcelona’s 12-game winning streak. Navarro led the hosts with 20 points and teenage sensation Alex Abrines netted 10. The game went back and forth early. The visitors led 11-16 after 10 minutes and increased that lead to 8 early in the second quarter. Barca took charge in the second quarter, Marcelinho Huertas put the hosts ahead and the score settled at 32-27 at halftime. A Victor Sada triple took the lead to 40-27 early in the third. Panathinaikos rallied back to tie it before the end of the third quarter and set up an exciting fourth.
First quarter: Navarro starts strong, but Greens edge ahead
The man who hit the winning shot in Game 1, Navarro opened up Game 2 with the first two baskets for Barcelona. At the other end, Panathinaikos attacked inside with two baskets from Sofoklis Schortsanitis, plus a triple from Jonas Maciulis. Barcelona introduced man mountain Nate Jawai after three minutes of play, looking to find the most favorable matchup against Schortsanitis. Panathinaikos established a 5-10 lead soon after, until Victor Sada and Joe Ingles sank consecutive three-pointers for the home team that swung Barcelona to an 11-10 advantage. Stephane Lasme tipped in a shot that snapped a scoreless run that had lasted almost three minutes, putting Panathinaikos back in front. Barcelona then gave Navarro his first rest, sitting him out for the final minute of the quarter. Roko Ukic’s running jumper in the paint pushed Panathinaikos 11-14 in front. Then Ante Tomic fouled Diamantidis, who converted his free throws to close the quarter 11-16 in Panathinaikos’s favor.
Second quarter: Marcelinho’s show puts Barcelona back in front
A triple from Gist extended that lead to 8 points as the second quarter began, although Barcelona remained undaunted. Abrines began a charge with his three-point shot, followed by Erazem Lorbek scoring a layup and drawing the foul off a fast break. With the gap reduced to 2 when Lorbek hit the resulting free throw, the game was back on for Barcelona. On the other side of a Lasme basket, Abrines threw down an alley-oop from Huertas that again ignited the crowd. Huertas redeemed himself for a subsequent turnover by hitting a three-pointer from the corner – taking the score to 22-23. His initial attempts to get Barcelona in front were thwarted by big blocks by Gist and Bramos, but the Brazilian recovered with a defensive rebound and a layup which finally got Barcelona back ahead, 26-25. The home team reintroduced Navarro to the fray for the final minutes in the first half. Fittingly, Navarro had the last word in the first half as he sank a fade-away shot on the buzzer for a 32-27 Barcelona lead at the break.
Third quarter: Greens battle back to even the score
Navarro also had the first word into the third quarter, sinking an off-balance shot from beyond the arc and an assist for Jawai, which put Barcelona further into the driving seat. Hustling defense meant that it forced three consecutive turnovers from Schortsanitis and Diamantidis, building a 10-point lead from the resulting fast breaks. Sada then sent in an audacious three-pointer from the corner, answered quickly by Roko Ukic with his first perimeter basket of the night. However, there was more to come from Navarro, who went outside yet again for a sensational pump fake & triple combination. Panathinaikos had brought it back to a 6-point game, but would have to find a way to stop the Barcelona guard from inflicting further damage if it was to draw level. Barcelona had other options, as a sensational series of passes to find C.J. Wallace under the basket demonstrated, but Navarro was running the show for the home side. Despite all this, Panathinaikos crept back into the game and leveled things up, 45-45, with Ukic’s second three-pointer. Abrines hit a nothing-but-net shot from beyond the arc, made a steal and converted 2 free throws quickly afterwards, reestablishing a 5-point lead for the host that was reduced to 2 before the buzzer.
Fourth quarter: Navarro, Diamantidis duel to the final buzzer
With Ante Tomic and Lorbek back on court to start the final period, Barcelona looked to outmuscle its opponent and preserve its lead. Maciulis went outside for Panathinaikos, making it 54-53 and forcing Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual to put Navarro back in. Another shot from beyond the arc from Diamantidis gave Panathinaikos a 4-point lead, as it used momentum to try and snatch the win. Lorbek tied the game, 60-60, with a pair of free throws, setting up a tense final five minutes of action. The tension hit as Navarro came through to score the only two baskets over the next three and a half minutes. However Bramos nailed a triple with 79 seconds to play and Lasme rejected Jawai at the rim to keep the Greens within 1 with a minute to go. A runner by Wallace with 51.3 seconds left was ruled to be after the 24-second shot clock had expired. But after Bramos missed, Navarro provided another clutch play by getting to the rebound, however he only split the free throws that came with 19.6 seconds left, 65-63. Diamantidis took charge for the Greens with a step-back three over Jawai to for a 65-66 lead with 8.4 second to go. Barca gave the ball to Navarro, who had his shot blocked by Lasme. However Lasme landed with the ball out of bounds, leaving the hosts with 1.7 seconds for a final shot. The ball went to Sarunas Jasikevicus, but his three-pointer hit the back of the rim and bounced out, and Panathinaikos raced off the court with the win.
Thursday, April 11, 2013