Barcelona defeated Panathinakos 67-70
The 2009-10 Euroleague will have a new king after Regal FC Barcelona kept defending champ Panathinaikos winless in Top 16 Group E by rallying late to a 67-70 victory in Athens on Thursday. Barcelona improved to 3-1 in Group E, tied for first place with Partizan, while Panathinaikos fell to 0-4 and cannot catch either of them. Panathinaikos looked poised for its first Top 16 victory when a dunk by Drew Nicholas gave the Greens a 61-50 lead with less than 6 minutes left to play. Former Panathinaikos star Jaka Lakovic then sparked the visitors with back-to-back triples, and that was all Barcelona needed to forge a 3-18 takeover run that assured the victory. Juan Carlos Navarro finished with 15 points for the winners, who outscored Panathinaikos 12-26 in the fourth quarter. Pete Mickeal added 11 points while Erazem Lorbek had a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds. For Panathinaikos, Nikola Pekovic scored 20 points in 22 minutes, but none after the first shot of the second half. Dmitris Diamantidis was the only other double-digit scorer for the Greens, with 13 points. The loss marked the third time this decade that Panathinaikos was eliminated following a championship season without making it to the Final Four again.
While Mickeal got the scoreboard started for Barcelona, Panathinaikos wasted no time looking for Pekovic and, with great ball movement, finding him for consecutive baskets. Then Antonis Fotsis got open for a triple that he buried for a quick 2-7 lead. After a free throw by Ricky Rubio, the Greens kept going to Pekovic for a three-point play and an open lay-in which meant a 12-3 advantage and a timeout for Barcelona. A wild play resulting in Lorbek's first basket restarted the guests, but Diamantidis also got loose as the Greens surged to 17-5 and their defense started counfounding the visitors again. Mickeal found the key for Barcelona with 4 free throws sandwiched around a corner three-pointer to cut the difference to 19-12. After Pekovic returned for a free throw, Mickeal stole for a layup and assisted Fran Vazquez on a baseline jumper to make it 20-16 after 10 minutes.
Barcelona's resurgence continued with a slam by Vazquez to open the second quarter, then a game-tying lane jumper by Lakovic at 20-20. Pekovic limped to the free throw line next, hitting both tried, but was answered by Gianluca Basile from downtown, putting Barcelona in the lead again, 22-23. Marcus Haislip tried to rock the house with a soaring baseline dunk for the Greens, but was called for charging, instead. Lorbek, who took the charge, dropped a hook for Barcelona, which after a timeout found Roger Grimau at the top of the arc for a triple to make it 22-28. Pekovic kept racking up fouls on Barcelona's big men, making 2 more free throws, but the Greens left Grimau open in triple territory again, and he didn't miss. Pekovic's next shot was matched by Navarro's first points, on free throws. Stratos Perperoglou picked up Panathniakos with a put-back before Diamantidis dished to Pekovic for a monster dunk at 30-33. After a pushed-in bank shot by Batiste, a spectacular steal-and-save by Perperoglou brought down the house when his pass went to Diamantidis for a go-ahead alley-oop layup at 34-33. Then, after a Barcelona turnover, Nicholas dribbled down the half to hit a rainbow three-pointer for a 37-33 lead that left Panathianikos fans on their feet going into the break.
Panathinaikos kept rolling with a block by Perperoglou and a drop-in by Pekovic to start the second half. Navarro hit free throws for the visitors, and after Diamantidis upped the Panathinaikos lead to 42-35 from the arc, matched that shot at the other end. Rubio's free throws closed the gap to 42-40, after which the intensity picked up even more. First, Haislip rolled to the hoop for a monster slam. Then, Navarro hit a patented runner. Next, after a wild offensive rebound, Diamantidis posted up for 46-42 advantage for the Greens, whose fans took advantage of a TV timeout to raise the roof a little more. No sooner had it ended than Vassilis Spanoulis joined the fun with an triple and Haislip sank free throws that opened a 51-42 difference. When Batiste then downed a baseline jumper, the Greens had the night's first double-digit lead, 53-42, and Barcelona needed a timeout. Suddenly, no shots were falling for either team, which worked to the hosts' favor until Lorbek drained free throws and Pekovic got whistled for his fourth foul. Perperoglou answered with a step-back triple, however, and the Greens were fully in charge, 55-44, after 30 minutes.
Grimau's fortuitous triple on the shot-clock buzzer gave Barcelona hope to start the final quarter. Boniface Ndong added a free throw and a pick-'n'-roll layup to Barcelona's count, but Batiste answered with a short jumper and his own inside basket at 59-50. Nicholas dunked to restore a double-digit advantage before Lakovic's triple brought the difference back down to 61-53. Following a timeout, Lakovic was back with a steal, running the break to another long three-pointer, and when Panathinaikos missed again, Lorbek downed a key jumper, forcing a the Greens to call timeout at 61-58 with 4 minutes left. Next, when Lorbek blocked his shot inside, Pekovic caught his fifth foul trying to chase Lakovic, who then fed Ndong for a swooping slam. Barcelona's run reached 0-10 before Spanoulis and Diamantidis broke it with 3 of 4 free throws to make it 64-60 with 2:38 to play. Barcelona answered with a Rubio-to-Grimau-to-Vazquez alley-oop slam, and when a shot by Fotsis rimmed out, found Lorbek alone underneath for the game-tying shot. Navarro completed the comeback with a steal and gutsy short jumper for a 64-66 scoreboard with 1:20 to play. Diamantidis tried a triple directly out of a Panathinaikos timeout and missed, as did Rubio at the other end. Now in the final minute, Diamantidis tried and missed again, the rebound falling to Lorbek, who hit 1 of 2 free throws. His miss fell to Vazquez, however, leading to Navarro making 2 of 2 free throws that for a 64-68 score with 23.7 seconds left. Out of another timeout, a ricocheted pass gave Diamantidis a third chance from downtown, and this time he blasted it for a 67-68 scoreboard. Now, 11.9 seconds remained. Barcelona got the ball to Navarro and he coolly dropped both free throws for 67-70 with 9.8 seconds left. Panathinaikos went to Nicholas, whose triple try, shot out of a double team, didn't come close, ending the title defense of Panathinaikos.
Thursday, February 25, 2010