Regal FC Barcelona edged Panathinaikos 83-82
Regal FC Barcelona held on for a thrilling 83-82 victory over Panathinaikos in the opener of a Quarterfinal Playoffs series between the last two Euroleague champs. The game went down to the final shot, but Panathinaikos star Dimitris Diamantidis came up short on a night when he went for a career-high 26 points. The visitors led 57-60 through three quarters, but an 11-0 run that Juan carlos Navarro capped with a three-pointer gave Barcelona the upper hand midway through the fourth quarter. Still the visitors never gave up, closed the gap to 1 several times and had their chances, but Barca was just tough enough when it mattered most. Navarro paced the champs with 13 points, Jaka Lakovic and Erazem Lorbek added 12 apiece and Alan Anderson scored 10. Drew Nicholas scored 16 and Mike Batiste tallied 15 points and 6 rebounds for Panathinaikos. Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Thursday in Barcelona before the series switches to Athens next week.
Panathinaikos surprised everyone by placing both Nick Calathes and Diamantidis in its starting lineup. Anderson got Barcelona going with a three-pointer, as the Greens missed their first 4 shots until Ian Vougioukas stepped up with a put-back dunk. Diamantidis soon added free throws for a 3-4 Panathinaikos lead. Lorbek nailed a five-meter jumper, but the Greens kept powering the offensive board. Antonis Fotsis shined with a put-back basket that Navarro matched with a driving layup. Lorbek hit a turnaround jumper and soon added a jump hook for a 11-6 lead, after a 6-0 run. Vougioukas scored down low, as Panathinaikos called timeout to adjust its offense once Barcelona entered the foul bonus. Nicholas fired in a fall-away jumper, but he didn't find much help. Victor Sada set the crowd on fire with a dunk in traffic only for a layup by Stratos Perperoglou to keep the Greens within 2. Diamantidis scored in transition to tie the game at 14-14 at the end of a very intense first quarter.
Barcelona tried twin point guards with Sada and Lakovic together on court early in the second quarter. Diamantidis followed a wild driving layup with an easy basket off a steal for a 14-18 Panathinaikos lead. Boni Ndong split free throws and an off-balance three-pointer by Roger Grimau tied the game again, 18-18. Ndong took over with a layup-plus-foul and a driving layup by Lakovic gave Barcelona some fresh air, 23-19. Nicholas buried a step-back jumper that Lakovic bettered with a bomb from downtown. Barcelona, however, had entered the foul bonus and could not play defense with the same intensity. Nicholas hit free throws and a turnaround jumper by Batiste made it 26-25. Anderson buried his second triple, however a put-back dunk by Kostas Tsartsaris kept his team within 2. Lakovic hit free throws, but an incredible triple by a red-hot Nicholas tied things at 30-30. Kosta Perovic and Lorbek stepped up before Navarro struck from downtown off a screen, but a layup by Nicholas and a big three-pointer by Diamantidis got the guests within 37-35 at halftime.
The second half started just as the first one ended, as Diamantidis struck from downtown for a 37-38 Panathinaikos lead. Anderson nailed a triple but a turnaround jumper by Diamantidis tied it at 40-40. The Greens kept following their game plan, powering the offensive board to avoid fast break points. Batiste scored down low, but a buzzer-beating triple by Lorbek sent the crowd to its feet at 43-42. Batiste scored again and Calathes improved on Ricky Rubio's reverse layup with a shot from beyond the arc for a 45-47 score. Rubio and Anderson made free throws, but an unstoppable Diamantidis single-handedly boosted the guests' margin to 48-52. Navarro did not miss from the foul line. Batiste silenced the crowd with a high-flying three-point play. Barcelona kept getting to the foul line and a driving layup by Lakovic got the hosts as close as 54-55. Coach Zeljko Obradovic brought Aleks Maric into the game and he made a sudden impact with 5 free throws. Perovic took over with an off-balance basket to get Barcelona within 57-60 through three quarters.
Calathes shined with an acrobatic basket early in the fourth quarter, but a rainbow jumper by Grimau got the crowd involved at 59-62. The game had turned into a physical battle and Barcelona made the most out of it. Terence Morris bettered Batiste's tip-in with a wide open triple and Lakovic copied him soon after that to set Palau Blaugrana on fire at 65-64 with seven minutes left. Panathinaikos called timeout, but Navarro followed free throws with a big triple that made it 70-64, capping an 11-0 run. Nicholas quickly answered with a seven-meter bomb, however a tip-in by Ndong kept the hosts out of trouble, 72-67. Batiste shined with a power layup that Grimau matched with a six-meter jumper. Nicholas and Ndong traded baskets, but free throws by Batiste kept the Greens within 74-71 with over three minutes left. Panathinaikos improved its defense right when it mattered most and a layup by Perperoglou made it 76-75 with 1:10 to go. Panathinaikos fouled Fran Vazquez, who made both attempts, but a driving layup by Perperoglou kept the Greens within 78-77 with 37.8 ticks on the clock. Vazquez returned to the foul line and hit both attempts with 24.1 seconds left. Nicholas missed around the basket and Morris lifted the margin to 82-77 from the line. But Diamantidis connected for another triple and Lakovic made just 1 from the line. Sada was called for a flagrant foul on Diamantidis as the latter tried to launch a halfcourt shot with 1.7 seconds left. The Greens’ leader sank 2 free throws, but on the resulting possession could not hit a long three at the buzzer for the win and Barcelona breathed a sigh of relief with a Game 1 victory.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Javier Gancedo, Barcelona