Barcelona´s Euroleague campaign is going from strength to strength as the Catalan giant defeated Panathinaikos Athens 84-62 in Spain.
It was another noteworthy result for Barca, and undoubtedly another that will send a message to the juggernauts of European Basketball. Sweeping aside a Panathinaikos team that is always among the Euroleague favourites and putting 22 points on the Greek giant will buoy Barcelona heading into the Playoffs. The clubs´ passage was decided a few weeks ago such was the dominance Barca displayed in Group E, but Friday’s success ensured that the Spanish team will now top Group E.
The result also meant that Barcelona extends its Top 16 record to a phenomenal 24 consecutive wins, a Euroleague record, and to 12-0 in the group. Panathinaikos lives to fight another day, although the club is now joined by arch rival Olympiacos in third place with a 6-6 record.
Panathinaikos started well with a Roko Ukic lay-up and triple sandwiching a two pointer from Barcelona´s Ante Tomic for a 2-5 lead. Tomic scored again for the hosts, but Ukic hit again to maintain the visitors´ advantage, although Tomic laid up in response to cut the deficit to one point (6-7). After four minutes of the game only two players had scored, but Stephane Lasme changed that when he grabbed two points for The Greens. Barcelona kept the pressure on with baskets from Michael Bramos and Kostas Papanikolaou, but the Greek team stayed one step ahead until the score board read 11-15. Papnikolaou from downtown cut the score to 14-15 after the first period.
Victor Sada scored in the paint to finish a 5-0 run that secured the home teams´ first lead of the game. The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes before Dimitris Diamantis hit from beyond the arc and Mike Batiste claimed two for a 0-5 run (18-22). Barcelona had been relatively quiet until that point, but signs of improvement were creeping in midway through the second quarter. The home team embarked on an 8-2 run that retook the lead at 26-24, with Panathinaikos later tying the game (26-26) from the charity strip. Barca was finding a groove and reeled off another run, this time 12-3 to put some space on the score board (38-29). The teams traded scores as the first half wound down, but Juan Carlos Navarro nailed a triple in the final minute to make it a ten point game at halftime (42-32).
Navarro started the third period in fantastic touch as the seasoned veteran sunk a three pointer and a lay-up to strengthen Barca´s hold on the lead, with the score now 47-32. Ukic and Bramos tried to stem the Barcelona flow by scoring the next four points for the away team (47-36), but the hosts were now in another gear. The Spanish team took a 7-2 run to go further ahead at 54-39, and maintained the fifteen point cushion through baskets for the next four minutes. Barca all but tied up the game when Marcelinho Huertas and Joey Dorsey scored six without reply to make it a 21 point game (63-42). However, Panathinaikos salvaged slim hopes when Batiste downed a triple to cut the lead to 63-45 after three quarters.
A lay-up by Jonas Maciulius opened the scoring for Panathinaikos in the fourth frame and gave fresh hope. It was not to be though as Barcelona killed the game thanks to an inside shot from Bostjan Nachbar and a downtown from Alejandro Abrines (69-48). Credit must be given to the visitors as they did not wilt, in fact Panathinaikos kept hitting the basket. The problem was Barcelona also continued to score, but with more frequency, and as the clock ticked away the Spanish team cruised to another win.
Erazem Lorbek and Alex Abrines scored 15 apiece in the winning effort, while Tomic continued his recent good form with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Ukic paced Panathinaikos in the first half and claimed 13 points overall. He was joined by Dimitris Diamantidis with 11 points.