Panathinaikos topped Regal FC Barcelona 76-74
Panathinaikos got within one win to reach the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four by downing defending champion Regal FC Barcelona 76-74 in Game 3 of their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series in front of a sellout crowd of 19,000 at OAKA in Athens, Greece on Tuesday. Panathinaikos has a 2-1 lead in the series and will reach the 2011 Final Four, dethroning Barcelona in the process, with another win, which could come when both teams meet again at OAKA on Thursday. Barcelona is in a do-or-die situation, as it must win in Athens to force Game 5, that would take place at Palau Blaugrana next week. Dimitris Diamantidis paced the winners with 18 points on 11-of-14 free throws and 7 assists. Drew Nicholas added 13 points, Mike Batiste had 12 while Antonis Fotsis got 10 for Panathinaikos. Ricky Rubio led Barcelona with 16 points on 4-of-5 three-pointers. Jaka Lakovic added 13, Alan Anderson had 12 while Terence Morris got 10 for the guests, that trailed 55-49 after three quarters. Barcelona rallied and regained the lead, 61-63, midway through the fourth quarter. It all came down to the final 14 seconds, as free throws by Anderson got Barcelona within 72-71. Diamantidis buried 4-of-4 free throws in crunch time and several tactic fouls helped the Greens to seal a key win in front of its outstanding crowd.
Nick Calathes got Panathinaikos going with a layup off a steal and Ian Vougioukas added free throws but Rubio followed a mid-range jumper with a top-in for a 4-4 tie. Kostas Tsartsaris nailed a wide open triple, as Panathinaikos kept denying passing lines to force Barcelona to play one-on-one. Batiste set the crowd on fire with consecutive dunks that boosted the Greens' lead to 11-4. Anderson tried to change things with a fast break slam and a corner three-pointer to get Barcelona as close as 11-9. Panathinaikos brought Fotsis and Nicholas to had better scoring options but Barcelona had adjusted its man-to-man defense. Boni Ndong split free throws, as the Greens had been scoreless for more than 3 minutes already. Fotsis rescued Panathinaikos with a corner triple and Calathes added a fallaway jumper to give the hosts some fresh air, 16-10. Lakovic sank a three-pointer to get Barcelona within 16-13 after 10 intense minutes.
Both teams struggled to score early in the second quarter until Ndong stepped up with a backdoor layup. Morris soon added a six-meter jumper that gave Barcelona its first lead of the night, 16-17. A wild dunk by Morris capped a 0-9 run, as Nicholas followed a driving basket with free throws, good for a 20-19 lead. Fotsis struck again from downtown, making Barcelona call timeout at 23-19. Roger Grimau took over with a fast break layup that Fotsis matched with free throws. The Greens tried a more versatile lineup with Kostas Kaimakoglou and Stratos Perperoglou at both forwards, as Barcelona tried to get Juan Carlos Navarro involved. Perperoglou split fre throws and added a long two-pointer for a 28-22 score. Navarro hit a left-handed layup in traffic and a high-flying put-back dunk by Vazquez got the guests as close as 28-26. Diamantidis struck from downtown and added foul shots but Lakovic joined the three-point shootout to fix the halfime score at 33-29.
Batiste dunked it again right after the break but Rubio nailed back-to-back three-pointers to tie it at 35-35. Diamantidis provided a highlight with an off-balance driving layup but Anderson bettered that with a triple that put the guests back ahead, 37-38. Tsartsaris stepped up with a put-back basket and Batiste added a five-meter jumper to put the Greens back ahead, 41-38. Navarro and Calathes traded long two-pointers and a free throw by Diamantidis gave his team a 44-40 edge. Rubio buried his third triple but Nicholas banked in a driving shot and sank his own shot from downtown to send the crowd to their feet, 49-43. Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual tried Lakovic at point guard to add a new scoring threat. Navarro and Vazquez made free throws but a two-handed dunk by Batiste kept the Greens way ahead, 52-45. Vazquez took over with a three-point play that Sato matched with a corner triple. Lakovic split foul shots but only managed to bring Barcelona within 55-49 after 30 minutes.
Morris buried a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter, as Barcelona tried Victor Sada to put pressure on Diamantidis - but he picked up two quick fouls and went back to the bench. Batiste hit a jump hook that Morris bettered with another triple. Fotsis scored down low but Lakovic joined the three-point shootout to get the defending champions within 59-58. Nicholas hit a jumper but Rubio answered from downtown and a fast break layup by Joe Ingles completed the guests' comeback, 61-63, making the Greens call timeout. Nicholas shined with an acrobatic basket, Tsartsaris and Diamantidis split foul shots but a jumper by Lakovic tied it again, 65-65, with 3 minutes to go. Diamantidis did not miss from the foul line and Romain Sato nailed a critical three-pointer from the top of the key that forced Barcelona to stop the game, 70-65. Navarro scored in penetration and added free throws for a 70-69 score with 1:47 left. Diamantidis scored again, Batiste collected a key steal but Fotsis missed from way downtown already in the final minute. Vazquez missed around the basket but a turnover by Sato gave the guests the ball back with 16.7 seconds to go. Anderson hit foul shots and matched Diamantidis' free throws with a layup for a 74-73 score with 4 seconds left. Diamantidis made more free throws and Panathinaikos fouled on Lakovic with 2 seconds left. He missed his second shot on purpose but Barcelona could not get a shot up in time, allowing all Panathinaikos fans to celebrate a pivotal win!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011