|Panathinaikos will look to join the list of clubs already in the Top 16 when it hosts Regal FC Barcelona at the Athens Olympic Indoor Arena on Thursday. The Greens will also want to avenge one of their worst Euroleague losses ever in this clash of teams tied for the Group B lead. Panathinaikos and Barca enter the game tied with Montepaschi for first with 5-1 and head coach Zeljko Obradovic’s charges’ only loss came in Week 2 at Barcelona, 90-66. Juan Carlos Navarro matched his season high with 21 to lead Barca that night, while the Greek champs struggled with their shooting and were outrebounded by 13. The passionate fans in Athens will be sure to lift their heroes this week, but Barca will have an advantage in star guard Jaka Lakovic, who spent four seasons with the Greens, played alongside eight current Panathinaikos players and will help his current teammates prepare for the atmosphere. These teams line up two of the deepest, most experienced and most talented squads in the competition, where a big night from any one of a handful of players could make the difference in the outcome. Navarro and Lakovic are joined by Victor Sada, Andre Barrett and Gianluca Basile in a tough backcourt that will have to handle the hosts version that includes Dimitris Diamantidis, Vassilis Spanoulis, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Drew Nicholas and Nikos Hatzivrettas. And though Sada and Diamantidis are not likely to match up against one another, their defensive prowess against the other team’s scorers could be a major factor in this game. In the paint, the Greens may be without top option Nikola Pekovic as well as power forward Antonis Fotsis, but that still leaves Mike Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris as well as Dusan Sakota. Daniel Santiago and David Andersen lead Barcelona’s big men at center, while Fran Vazquez and Ersan Ilyasova share time at power forward. Meanwhile small forward Lubor Barton of Barca and Stratos Perperoglou could engage on the wing. The players in this game combine for dozens of Final Four appearances and 16 Euroleague titles, so there is little doubt that they will be ready for a big game. Coaches Obradovic and Xavi Pascual will also be prepared, since their tactics could end up being what determines the outcome. With these two teams, there is little to analyze and much to hype in this must-see clash.
Regal FC Barcelona
- Guard Dimitris Diamantidis is closing in on 200 steals for his Euroleague Basketball career. Diamantidis is fifth on the all-time list with 196. Only four players – Theo Papaloukas, Gianlica Basile, Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Holden – have reached 200.
- Diamantidis has made at least 1 three-pointer in 13 straight Euroleague appearances dating back to last season.
- Big man Mike Batiste is closing in on the Euroleague Basketball career top 10 list for rebounding. Batiste is currently 12th with 660 career boards. Next is Tanoka Beard with 663 and Jorge Garbajosa is 10th with 667. The next active player with a chance to crash the top 10 would be teammate Kostas Tsartsaris, who enters this week’s game with 643 career boards.
- Tsartsaris needs only 3 more defensive rebounds to crack the all-time top 10 in that category. That distinction currently belongs to Anthony Parker with 460.
- Panathinaikos lost to FC Barcelona 66-90 in Week 2, which was the second largest defeat the club suffered during the Zelimir Obradovic era. The club’s worst loss in Obradovic’s 10 seasons with the club came against Fortitudo Bologna, 63-88, in the 2002-03 season.
- Last week Panathinaikos beat Zalgiris on the road for a milestone win – the club’s 300th victory in its European competition history. Half of those wins came with head coach Zeljko Obradovic on the bench. In a total of 461 official international matches, starting from the 1961-62 season, Panathinaikos has 300 wins, 2 ties and 159 defeats.
- On April, 4, 1996 Panathinaikos beat FC Barcelona 67-66 at Bercy in one of the most controversial championship games in the history of the European Cups. The game and the European trophy were decided by a blocked shot that Stojan Vrankovic made on Juan Antonio Montero at the buzzer!
- Guard Sarunas Jasikevicius had a glorious three-year career with Barcelona, as helping the team win one Euroleague crown, two Spanish League championships and two Spanish King’s Cups. The only player left on the Barcelona roster from Saras’s days is Juan Carlos Navarro.
- Teammates David Andersen and Gianluca Basile can both tie former Barca player Denis Marconato for the most career appearances in the competition this decade. Marconato made 165 Euroleague Basketball appearances, including 68 with Barcelona. Injured CSKA Moscow guard J.R. Holden is also currently second with 164 appearances, but is sidelined with a hand injury.
- Forward Jordi Trias needs just 1 more blocked shot to reach 50 for his Euroleague Basketball career.
- Jaka Lakovic returns to Athens to play against the team where he played for four seasons and helped it to win four Greek League championships, and three Greek Cups. Lakovic also helped the Greens reach the 2005 Euroleague Final Four, where they placed third. Among the current Panathinaikos players that Lakovic played alongside are team captain Fragiskos Alvertis, guards Vassilis Spanoulis, Dimitris Diamantidis and Nikos Hatzivrettas, forward Antonis Fotsis and Dusan Sakota and big men Mike Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris.
- Andersen’s Euroleague career-high in rebounding came against Panathinaikos at the 2005 Final Four in Moscow. Andersen, then with CSKA Moscow, recorded 14 points and 15 rebounds in the third-place game, which the Greens won in double overtime.
- Guard Juan Carlos Navarro is best known for his scoring ability, but he has recorded at least 2 assists in consecutive Euroleague games. Interestingly enough, Navarro’s career-high is assists came against his next opponent, Panathinaikos, in February 2007.
- Forward Lubos Barton is coming off his best game of the season last week against SLUC Nancy. He scored a season-high 11 points and keyed the defense with 2 key steals.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008