Barcelona toppled still-winless Panathinaikos 83-71
The big Group E showdown in Barcelona, Spain on Thursday night was all about one team, Regal FC Barcelona, as the hosts defeated defending Euroleague champion Panathinaikos 83-71. The win lifts Barca to 2-1 and a share of a three-way tie with Partizan and Maroussi BC for first place in Group E, while Panathinaikos drops to 0-3 and is surprisingly winless at the midway point of the Top 16. The two teams meet again in two weeks in Athens. The hosts started with the upper hand thanks to hot three-point shooting and never looked back as in the second quarter, a surprise guest, Roger Grimau stepped up and took Barca to the next level. In the third quarter, the duo of Erazem Lorbek and Boni N'Dong launched Barca. A couple of scoring runs in the last period allowed the Greens to trim the deficit, but they never really threatened the hosts' win. Grimau led the way for the winners with 17 points, N'Dong added 16, Lorbek 14 and Juan Carlos Navarro posted 11. For Panathinaikos, Mike Batiste led all scorers with his 19 points and 7 boards, Drew Nicholas and Nikola Pekovic added 11 apiece and Vassilis Spanoulis chipped in with 10.
A zone defense allowed Ricky Rubio to get a steal and force the first foul of the game and the first points from the line for Barca. Nicholas hit a jumper for Panathinaikos, but the hosts started dominating with the offensive rebounds. The Greens pushed hard on defense, but Juan Carlos Navarro scored and Dimitris Diamantidis had a fast reply to make it 6-5. When Barca managed to circulate the ball, Pete Mickeal found an open three and Lorbek copied him from the same spot as the hosts tried to run and were succeeding at this point, 12-5. Batiste stopped the bleeding from the paint as both teams were running too much now with turnovers for each side. Both defenses took the rival's attack to the limit, but the hosts had the upper hand while dominating the defensive rebounds. It was Batiste again - with a five-meter jumper - to get the score going again, but Rubio replied with a three. Baskets came in fast again favoring the style of the hosts as Navarro scored and then Mickeal joined in transition to force Panathinaikos's first timeout, 19-11. Rubio added free throws for the first double-digit lead, but with Pekovic now on the floor, the Greens gained power in the paint. Terence Morris hit the third three from the right wing for Barca, while Pekovic sent N'Dong to the bench having forced his second foul in one minute. Gianluca Basile blasted Barca's fifth three in six attempts to close the first period with a 29-18 edge for the hosts.
Pekovic opened the second quarter with more free throws for Panathinaikos and Morris hit one for Barcelona. Grimau drove in traffic to leave all Green defenders behind for a layup, but Spanoulis tried to break the hosts' defense with a three-point play. Lorbek stepped up now for 4 points in a row in the paint and as the Greens based all their offensive charge on Pekovic, Grimau blocked him to bring the house down. Grimau himself added free throws after showing his pride on offense while on the other side, Nicholas finally blasted a three for the guests as the hosts' defense locked the combination between Spanoulis and Pekovic again and again. Grimau scored his sixth in a row and Nicholas went for his fifth after the Greens' first offensive board. Fran Vazquez committed his third foul allowing Antonis Fotsis to score free throws, but an immense Grimau did the same for his 10th point in the quarter and 44-29 lead. With patience, Nicholas managed to find a layup and Batiste traveled to the line to add 2. Entering the last minute, Rubio was secure from the line as Pekovic and Batiste combined efforts in offense for the basket and the former hit two more free throws to close the first half with a 47-38 edge for Barcelona.
Lorbek opened the second half with a dunk for Barcelona and then he added free throws. Batiste fought for the offensive board and got Panathinaikos in the scoring race, but Navarro replied with another Barca three to make it 54-40. The Greens were now punishing the hosts with offensive rebounds, but on offense Navarro fed N'Dong for a three-point play. Spanoulis and Lorbek traded threes as both teams were pushing the pedal to the metal on both ends of the court. No easy baskets came on either side as both teams looked inside for the big men. N'Dong scored again to get Barca to 62-45 with Grimau was back on court. Good defense could not avoid Diamantidis's three at the shot clock buzzer when there was no other option for the Greens, but Grimau's hand didn't shake for a six-meter jumper. Pekovic showed his resources in the low -71 with two minutes to go. Navarro stopped the new avalanche with more free throws that would close the game, allowing Barca to add its second Top 16 win. post for a bucket, but N'Dong kept adding points to maintain the comfortable lead for the hosts, 68-54 after 30 minutes.
Panathinaikos head coach Zeljko Obradovic was called a technical foul between the third and fourth quarters and Navarro opened the last 10 minutes with a resulting free throw. Soon, a fastbreak finished by Grimau made it 72-54 after the extra foul shot. Nick Calathes missed free throws for the Greens and on the other end Grimau scored yet again to make it a 6-0 to start the quarter and boost the lead to 20 points. Batiste finally scored for the guests from the paint as Panathinaikos tried a zone on defense, but Morris managed to break it in the middle of the paint. Panathinaikos didn't give up easily. Forcing Barca mistakes from defense, the Greens managed to trim the deficit to 76-62 with a 0-6 burst. N'Dong scored free throws to stop the bleeding and he soon slammed to force a three-point play for 81-62, putting things back in place. The hosts defended to the limit, but Panathinaikos survived every time, especially when Diamantidis blasted a three on the buzzer to make it 81-67. Batiste was the go-to guy in the last minutes for the guests and Marcus Haislip hit free throws to make it a 0-7 run and 81-71 with two minutes to go. Navarro stopped the avalanche with more free throws that would close the game, allowing Barca to add its second Top 16 win.
Thursday, February 11, 2010