Barca stops Greens, stays second
FC Barcelona took its second consecutive victory by defeating Panathinaikos OPAP Athens 98-86 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday. The hosts improved to 10-3 for a second-place tie in the standings with arch-rival Real Madrid while Panathinaikos saw its four-game winning streak ended. Barca excelled offensively from the start, taking a 5-0 lead behind Nikola Mirotic and staying ahead the whole game despite several comeback attempts by Panathinaikos. Mirotic had 17 of his game-high 23 points in that first half and added 7 rebounds for a performance index rating of 30. Malcolm Delaney followed him with 17 points, all of them in the second half, while Brandon Davies posted 13 for the winners. Jimmer Fredette collected 19 points, Nick Calathes posted a double-double of 13 points and 13 assists, while DeShaun Thomas and Ioannis Papapetrou added 13 and 10 points, respectively, for the losers.
Barca started the game at full throttle. Mirotic shot the hosts ahead 12-4 with a pair of triples and a turnaround jumper. Fredette started heating up for Panathinaikos, but the home team continued rolling as Ante Tomic and Kyle Kuric contributed from inside and outside, respectively, on the way to a 21-13 lead. Mirotic and Calathes traded baskets before their respective teammates, Jacob Wiley and Corey Higgins, showed up to keep a terrific scoring pace on both sides. Free throws by Tyrese Rice closed the gap to 28-23 at the end of the first quarter. The offensive festival continued after the break. Calathes scored his team's first triple and fed Fredette for another in from the corner to get the Greens as close as 37-33. Brandon Davies took over for the home side at that moment, sending the fans on their feet with a couple of highlight dunks. Calathes kept hurting Barcelona from outside before Ioannis Papapetrou cut the gap to 45-42 late in the second quarter. Barcelona used a timeout to regroup for a pair of three-point plays by Mirotic and Kyle Kuric for a 55-47 advantage at halftime. After the break, an acrobatic basket and a corner three by Fredette reduced the margin to 57-52. After Rolands Smits rescued Barcelona from long distance, Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou combined to get the Greens within 60-58. Malcolm Delaney, who hadn't score so far, surged from beyond the arc twice to prevent Panathinaikos from completing the comeback and Barce finished the third quarter with a 71-65 lead. Delaney and Pierre Oriola nailed back-to-back treys to increase difference to 79-69. Panathinaikos tried to resist thanks to Rice, who provided his team's first 7 points of the last quarter. Rice found some help coming from Papapetrou and Thomas, who brought the visitors within 81-77 with 6 minutes to go. After a new Barcelona timeout, Delaney banked a lucky three-pointer that Hanga followed with his own at 87-79. Delaney remained hot, adding another basket and hitting a contested triple from way downtown to raise Barca's lead to 94-81 entering the last 2 minutes, enough to let the fans begin celebrating in the stands.
First half showtime
After putting up an awesome offensive performance with 61 first-half points against Khimki last week, Barca excelled again by scoring 55 points in the first 20 minutes against Panathinaikos, with Nikola Mirotic contributing 17 and Brandon Davies adding 10 over that period.
Delaney takes over
Malcolm Delaney finished the first half scoreless, but he showed up when his team needed it most. With Panathinaikos trailing by just 60-58 with 3 minutes to go in the third quarter, Delaney found the first of his 5 second-half triples. He ended with 17 points, scoring many of them when the game was on the line.
Both coaches pointed out the rebounding difference between both teams as one of the keys to the game. FC Barcelona outrebounded Panathinaikos 34-25. Three-point accuracy was also decisive, as Panathinaikos made just 7 long-range shots and Barcelona 13.
Winning streak ended
Panathinaikos was one of the hottest teams in the Euroleague, having won four games in a row before Round 13. The Greens had beaten Zalgiris Kaunas, FC Bayern Munich, Kirolbet Baskonia and Olympiacos Piraeus by scoring 86 or more points in all four games. They reached 86 tonight too, but it was not enough to match or exceed Barca's firepower.
In Round 14 next week FC Barcelona welcomes LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne on Tuesday, while Panathinaikos OPAP Athens will return to its home court to face Fenerbahce BEKO Istanbul the same day.
Friday, December 13, 2019