Barca battles back to overcome Panathinaikos
FC Barcelona struck a big blow to Panathinaikos OPAP Athens’ hopes of climbing into the top four with a powerful 81-92 comeback victory at the OAKA. Panathinaikos started strong and never trailed in the first half, leading 45-38 at the break, and was briefly up by double digits in the third quarter. But Barcelona rallied towards the end of the third, took its first lead early in the fourth and didn’t look back from that moment. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Cory Higgins added 17 points, Malcolm Delaney scored 15 and Alex Abrines netted 13 for the Spanish side. Nick Calathes recorded a double-double of 10 points and 11 assists, while Georgios Papagiannis led the home team’s scoring with 14 points. Jimmer Fredette netted 13 points and Ioannis Papapetrou scored 12 in defeat. The home team drops to 14-11 while Barcelona stays in second place at 19-6.
Papagiannis made an instant impact, scoring twice from close range and blocking two shots as the hosts went 6-2 ahead. Free throws kept Barcelona close but Papagiannis hooked up with Calathes for an alley-oop slam and Fredette struck from deep for a 16-11 lead. Higgins and Ian Vougioukas both scored 4 quick points, before a three-point play on a fastbreak from Higgins tied it at 20-20. Nikos Pappas and DeShaun Thomas struck from deep either side of the first quarter buzzer, but 5 fast points from Abrines kept it close. Calathes found Papapetrou and Thomas under the basket to keep Panathinaikos in front, and a layup plus one from Papapetrou made it 35-27. A trio of baskets from Ante Tomic got Barcelona moving, but Papapetrou struck from the corner and added a mid-range shot to secure a 45-38 half-time lead. Papagiannis netted twice inside early in the second half, and although Mirotic and Adam Hanga both scored from deep that was the signal for Ben Bentil to take over with a huge slam over Tomic and a three-point strike for a 59-48 lead. Mirotic scored twice and Higgins completed a 0-7 run with a triple. A steal and score from Calathes restarted Panathinakos, and Tyrese Rice’s free throws briefly made it a double-digit game before Abrines struck from deep, Brandon Davies nailed a fastbreak slam, Delaney added a triple and Abrines beat the third quarter buzzer to make it 69-67 after three quarters. Davies tied the game from mid-range and then gave Barcelona its first lead from the foul line, but Papagiannis threw down a slam and Papapetrou laid up to send Panathinaikos back ahead. Three-pointers from Delaney and Abrines forced another lead change, 74-76, and a Davies slam followed by free throws from Delaney and Mirotic made it 76-82 with less than three minutes left. Higgins and Mirotic stretched the lead to double-digits by netting from deep, and that sealed the deal.
Greens come out firing
Panathinaikos defended with great physicality in the early stages, making plenty of contact close to the basket and not allowing Barcelona any uncontested shots. As a result, the visiting team scored 9 of its first 13 points from the foul line, only making 3 of 12 two pointers and nothing from long-range in the process.
Mirotic heats up to make milestone
Setting the trend for his team, Barcelona’s star man Nikola Mirotic made a slow start, scoring only 4 points in the first half and making just 1 of his first 8 field goal attempts. He was a different proposition after the interval, though, and surpassed the milestone of 1,500 career points in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague as he finished with a game-high 20 points.
Visitors find offense…eventually
After being held to just 38 points in the first half, Barcelona was much improved after the interval and tallied 54 points in the final two quarters. That was largely explained by much improved three-point shooting, with Barca making 2 of 12 from long-range in the first half but 9 of 17 in the second.
Barcelona stays on the road with a testing trip to CSKA Moscow in Round 25, while Panathinaikos faces another Spanish giant with a road game at Real Madrid on Monday.
Friday, February 21, 2020