Two of the hottest teams in the EuroLeague right now will meet in Round 13 as FC Barcelona (9-3) welcomes Panathinaikos OPAP Athens (8-4) to the Catalan capital. Barca bounced back last week from a severe home loss with a 94-102 road win at Khimki, while the Greens have won four in a row including last round's Greek derby against Olympiacos, by 99-93 in overtime. Get ready for an offensive display between two of the top-scoring teams in the league.
Barcelona and Panathinaikos have established one of the longest rivalries in the league. This will be the 35th time they play against each other this century, with Barcelona holding a 21-13 advantage in their head-to-head encounters. That includes each winning one playoff series against the other, with Panathinaikos victories in 2011 and Barcelona in 2013. In between they played their only Final Four game this century for third place, won by Barcelona. Panathinaikos, of course, won its first continental crown with Barcelona as the victim in 1996. Last season, each team won at home.
Rice, back in Barcelona
One of the hottest players in Panathinaikos at the moment, Tyrese Rice, returns to Barcelona for the first time to play against his former team. Rice played for Barcelona during the 2016-17 season. He will land in Barcelona with his motivation and drive through the roof, especially after having drained his career-high 41 points against Olympiacos last week.
Kyle Kuric of Barcelona and DeShaun Thomas of Panathinaikos will be protagonists of an interesting duel at forward. In his second season for Barcelona, Kuric averages 9.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals in over 22 minutes off the bench. Thomas is an undisputed starter for Panathinaikos and averages 14.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 steals in almost 30 minutes on the floor. Kuric is quicker and works mainly on the perimeter, while Thomas has several more centimeters and is just as dangerous around the basket. If either gets hot, his team will have the upper hand.
Keys to victory: Barcelona
Barcelona seems to have recovered from its severe home loss to CSKA a couple of weeks ago, but now faces another on-the-rise team with the best offense in the league. In fact, both teams are rather close in all stats categories, but if the Greens are on top in offense, Barca performs better at defense, so that's where the hosts will have to focus. The hosts will try especially to limit floor general Nick Calathes, also keeping an eye on former teammate Tyrese Rice. Barcelona's injury problems at point guard will require plenty of team defensive strategies to accomplish those goals.
Keys to victory: Panathinaikos
Since the comeback of coach Rick Pitino, Panathinaikos is showing even more confidence with two wins in a row and a focus on defense to complement its super-charged offense. However, Barcelona has one of the most talented rosters in the league and it is playing at home, where with the exception of the loss to CSKA, the home fans have not been disappointed. Right now the Greens are the best team in the league in points and rebounds, so the key for them will be trying to impose their style to break through one of the best defenses in the competition.