Panathinaikos dethroned defending champion Regal FC Barcelona with a 78-67
Panathinaikos advanced to the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four on Thursday and in the process dethroned Regal FC Barcelona with a 78-67 victory in Game 4 of their Quarterfinal Playoffs series in front of a sea of 19,000 green fans at OAKA in Athens, Greece. Panathinaikos won the best-of-five series 3-1 and reached the Final Four for the 10th time in club history. Barcelona lost a chance to become the ninth team to win back-to-back titles in Euroleague history in its own city, home of the 2011 Final Four. Nick Calathes led the winners with 12 points. Dimitris Diamantidis and Antonis Fotsis each added 11 while Ian Vougioukas and Romain Sato had 10 apiece for Panathinaikos. Fran Vazquez had 14 points to lead Barcelona while Alan Anderson added 13. Barcelona stayed in the game for almost 25 minutes, as a hook shot by Boni Ndong kept the guests within 40-38. Fotsis and Diamantidis shined late in the third quarter to give Panathinaikos a decisive 56-47 margin after 30 minutes. A fast break layup by Diamantidis soon made it a 13-point game, 63-50, an outstanding defense allowed the Green giant to seal a Final Four berth and write a brilliant new page in club history.
Coach Xavi Pascual opted to place team captain Roger Grimau in his team's starting lineup, replacing Juan Carlos Navarro. Calathes got Panathinaikos going with a layup and Sato added a jumper for a 4-0 lead. Barcelona could not find the way to the basket and Calathes took over with a coast-to-coast layup. Anderson rescued the guests with a six-meter jumper and free throws on Diamantidis' second foul. Vougioukas dunked it but a three-pointer by Ricky Rubio got Barcelona within 8-7. Erazem Lorbek shined with an off-balance basket, forcing coach Zeljko Obradovic to bring Mike Batiste into the game. Calathes split free throws but a rainbow jumper by Ndong gave Barcelona its first lead, 10-11. Calathes kept pacing the Greens with a fast break layup, as Drew Nicholas left the game with a sprained ankle. Ndong and Fotsis traded foul shots but Stratos Perperoglou singlehandedly restored a 16-12 Panathinaikos lead after 10 very intense minutes.
Vazquez shined with a backdoor reverse layup early in the second quarter that Batiste erased with his trademark turnaround jumper. Vazquez insisted with a mid-range jumper off the pick but a layup by Fotsis gave the Greens a 20-16 edge. Grimau took over with a wild coast-to-coast layup and back-to-back jumpers by a red hot Vazquez gave the guests a 20-22 edge. Panathinaikos brought Diamantidis back on court but Barcelona kept its momentum going. Jaka Lakovic provided a highlight with a driving layup that Perperoglou matched in the other end. Fotsis soon struck from downtown to force Barcelona to stop the game at 25-24. Diamantidis fed Batiste for an uncontested dunk that Navarro matched with his classic 'bomba'. Batiste stayed on fire with an alleyoop layup, as Barcelona stopped the game again at 29-26. Kostas Tsartsaris scored down low but Navarro quickly answered with a big triple and added another 'bomba' that tied the game, 31-31. A three-point play by Tsartsaris and a buzzer-beating basket by Lorbek fixed the halftime score at 34-33.
Panathinaikos struggled to score immediately after the break and free throws by Lorbek put Barcelona back ahead, 34-35. Vougioukas sank a rainbow jumper and added a left-handed jump hook that gave the Greens some fresh air, 38-35. Barcelona kept powering the offensive board and Panathinaikos struggled to find open shots. Ndong split free throws and matched Vougioukas' jumper with a hook shot, good for a 40-38 score. Barcelona had entered the foul bonus and Panathinaikos opted to play with even more intensity. Fotsis scored in penetration and added an easy layup to set the crowd on fire at 44-39. Lakovic split foul shots but Diamantidis followed a driving layup with free throws to make it an eight-point game, 48-40. Joe Ingles tried to change things with a layup but Sato and Batiste boosted the Greens' lead to 51-42. Anderson buried a three-pointer but a mid-range jumper by Sato kept Panathinaikos way ahead, 53-45. Vazquez shined with an alleyop layup that Diamantidis bettered with a corner triple for a 56-47 Panathinaikos margin after 30 minutes.
Barcelona needed to improve its defense to return to the game and Vazquez delivered with a huge block on Sato. Lorbek buried a corner three-pointer but he didn't find much help around. Fotsis sent the crowd to their feet with a two-handed dunk, as the Greens had started to use long possessions to run the game clock down. A three-pointer by Diamantidis gave Panathinaikos its first double-digit lead, 61-50, making Barcelona call a much-needed timeout with 7 minutes left. Diamantidis collected a long rebound and raced downcourt for an easy basket that Anderson improved with a three-pointer. Calathes answered from downtown, as Barcelona needed a miracle comeback now. Terence Morris joined the three-point shootout and soon added a layup to make Panathinaikos call timeout, 66-58, with 3 minutes left. Sato finished a long possession with free throws but back-to-back dunks by Vazquez gave Barcelona some hope, 68-62. Free throws by Perperoglou and Diamantidis sealed the outcome, allowing Panathinaikos to celebrate a historical win that came with a ticket to the 2011 Final Four!
Thursday, March 31, 2011