Barcelona locks up first place after 24th straight Top 16 win
In a battle between Turkish Airlines Euroleague giants, FC Barcelona locked up first place in Top 16 Group E by downing Panathinaikos Athens 84-62 at home on Friday. Barcelona improved to 12-0, registered its 24th consecutive Top 16 win and its 31st straight Top 16 home triumph - both all-time Euroleague records. Panathinaikos dropped to 6-6 and a tie with archrivals Olympiacos Piraeus for third place in the Group. Erazem Lorbek and Alex Abrines scored 15 points apiece to lead the winners, while Ante Tomic added 11 points and 9 rebounds. Roko Ukic led Panathinaikos with 13 points and Dimitris Diamantidis added 11. Ukic shined early and got help from Dimitris Diamantidis and Mike Batiste to give Panathinaikos a 14-15 edge after 10 minutes. Batiste gave the Greens an 18-22 edge, but Barcelona improved its defense while Brad Oleson, Jacob Pullen and a three-pointer by Juan Carlos Navarro helped the hosts make it a double-digit game, 42-32, at halftime. Navarro took over after the break, getting plenty of help from Lorbek and Joey Dorsey to boost the hosts' lead to 64-46 through three quarters. Nothing changed since that moment, as Barcelona kept a safe margin until the final buzzer.
First quarter: Ukic shines as Greens take early lead
Roko Ukic got Panathinaikos going with a layup off a midcourt steal. Ante Tomic quickly answered with a put-back slam, but Ukic answered from downtown for a 2-5 Panathinaikos lead. Tomic kept pushing Barcelona with a put-back layup that a red-hot Ukic erased with a driving basket. Tomic shined with a tip-in, before Stephane Lasme scored down low. A layup by Erazem Lorbek kept Barcelona within 8-9. Mike Bramos took over with an electric fast break layup. Kostas Papanikolaou hit an off-balance shot in the paint, but a wild driving basket by Dimitris Diamantidis gave Panathinaikos a 10-13 lead. Barcelona kept missing open shots and head coach Xavi Pascual brought in Brad Oleson and Bostjan Nachbar to open the floor even more. Joey Dorsey split free throws, but a five-meter jumper by Mike Batiste gave the Greens an 11-15 edge. Papanikolaou answered from downtown to keep Barcelona within 14-15 after 10 intense minutes.
Second quarter: Barcelona raises defensive level and takes lead
Victor Sada scored around the basket early in the second quarter, but a step-back jumper by Ramel Curry put Panathinaikos back ahead, 16-17. Papanikolaou and Nachbar split foul shots before Diamantidis struck from downtown and a layup by Batiste made it a 4-point game. Maciej Lampe made free throws, which Lorbek followed with a catch-and-shoot triple for a 23-22 Barcelona edge. Diamantidis hit a mid-range jumper that Oleson bettered with a three-pointer. Both teams were in the foul penalty and tried to get to the free throw line often. Lasme hit 3 of 4. Alex Abrines sank a jumper and Lorbek split attempts for a 29-27 score. Abrines scored around the basket and a driving layup by Jacob Pullen gave Barcelona a 6-point edge. After Ukic hit foul shots, Tomic took over with an alley-oop slam. A three-pointer by Pullen caused the guests 1o call timeout at 38-29. Diamantidis split foul shots and Lasme shined with a big basket in traffic, but Tomic and a big triple by Navarro gave Barcelona its first double-digit lead, 42-32, at halftime.
Third quarter: Navarro steps up and Barca takes off
Navarro struck from downtown immediately after the break and soon added an amazing no-look "bomba" for a 47-32 lead. Ukic scored in penetration, as Panathinaikos tried to stretch the floor with three-point specialists Bramos and Antonis Fotsis at forward. Bramos made free throws that Lorbek bettered with a three-point play. Ukic scored again, but back-to-back layups by Lorbek and Tomic kept Barcelona way ahead, 54-38. Bramos shined with a fast break slam only to see Tomic feed Marcelinho Huertas for an uncontested layup. Fotsis buried a three-pointer, before an unstoppable Lorbek hit a five-meter jumper and a put-back basket by Dorsey made it a 17-point game. Barcelona was all over the place on defense, not allowing any open shots. Meanwhile, a layup by Huertas broke the game open. A jump hook by Dorsey and a three-pointer by Batiste fixed the score at 64-46 after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Hosts celebrate long before final buzzer
Nachbar sank a six-meter jumper early in the quarter, as Panathinaikos tried to speed up the game tempo. Barcelona kept excelling on defense and a three-pointer by Abrines sealed the outcome. James Gist scored around the basket and soon added a jump hook to make it 69-52. Abrines insisted from downtown. Lasme hit a baseline jumper, which a red-hot Abrines matched with a six-meter jumper for a 74-54 Barcelona lead with over four minutes left. Gist hit a three-pointer and Lampe sank a jump hook. A dunk by Gist brought the Greens within 76-59. But it proved to be too little, too late as the Barcelona fans had plenty of time to celebrate that their team had reached another goal - being first in Group E.
Friday, March 28, 2014