Euroleague Basketball
James Gist - Panathinaikos Athens - EB15James Gist and Shane Lawal - FC Barcelona Lassa vs. Panathinaikos Athens

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FC Barcelona finished out what became a comfortable 77-52 win against Panathinaikos in the 35th clash between the sides. The Catalan team improved their home record in the meetings to 13-4 in their favour. The game was closer than the scoreline reflects but had Barcelona in control for the majority of it as they took an early lead in the first quarter, built on it in the second before Panathinaikos closed the gap in the third, although Barcelona’s superior depth as well as a couple of extra bodies helped them secure the victory.

The game got off to an exciting start with Tomas Satoransky getting a block on Nick Calathes, but the former Grizzly answered back moments later with a successful lay up. One of the only other notable moments from the visitors in the opening quarter was a dunk from James Gist which was greeted with by awe by the opposing crowd but still received a customary deadpan “dos” from the announcer. The first quarter was also characterised by three pointers as Panathinaikos missed four of their five first quarter attempts whilst Stratos Perperoglou scored two of them for the home side, which was the six point difference heading into the break. Three point shooting aside, Panathinaikos played with rapid ball movement but were unable to convert many plays inside the arc, shooting just 33% on two point attempts to Barcelona’s 50%.

The second quarter had Barcelona’s lead grow as Justin Doellman and Carlos Arroyo both registered on the score board with the former netting 11 points in the second quarter alone and Arroyo making two threes. Panathinaikos responded though and didn’t let Barcelona run away with the game just yet as James Gist added four more to his tally (as well as a big steal) and Miroslav Raduljica contributed seven, including a made and one basket.

The third quarter gave hope to the side from Athens. After trailing since the beginning of the game they beat Barcelona in the third quarter 15-13 with a team effort, primarily from Calathes, Gist, James Feldeine and Sasha Pavlovic. Through an offensive push coupled with a scrambling defense they collectively narrowed the lead but began to show their wear as three of their players climbed clear of 25 minutes on the court whilst Barcelona only had two players on the floor just above 20 minutes. This is when the dominoes began to fall into place for Barcelona as Panathinaikos turned it over twice late in the quarter, Perperoglou secured his third three, and Samardo Samuels rejected Feldeines with a huge block before issuing a surprising behind the back pass on the fast break to a waiting Ante Tomic for the dunk. And still Panathinaikos didn’t take this quietly as Pavlovic had a block of his own on Perperoglou and an up and under lay up basket blowing right by the Barcelona defesne before the end of the quarter.

Despite these third quarter heroics the fourth saw the exhausted visitors succumb to superior three point shooting and fresh legs. The quarter opened with scrappy play from both teams with four turnovers in the first minute alone. This was followed by a transition three from Navarro and Samuels scoring all five of his points in forty seconds. If this wasn’t enough, Alex Abrines was the monster at the end of the Halloween nightmare for Panathinaikos as he put away three late threes in the fourth crushing the already exhausted side and any hope at a respectable scoreline. Which Panathinaikos coach, Sasha Djordjevic thinks may be a positive thing to take away from the game –

In the end maybe it’s better we lose this way than just lose by under ten and go home happy with that small difference. For us it’s much better like this, we have to wake up, forgot about what we did in the past, who we beat and who we played against The competition goes on, we have to focus and it is my job to make them understand that.”

Barcelona would be unwise to pay the scoreline going into their next meeting with the Greek side in Athens in December as Panathinaikos will surely be looking for revenge and likely be in a better shape than yesterday evening. However arrogance does not seem to be a factor of the victory as Barcelona’s head coach Xavi Pascual had this to say about the result –

Every game is different – we had an important win against a very good team. Not having Ognjen Kuzmic was a big loss for them but still, Panathinaikos is a very high-level team. The difference between both teams is not 25 points.”

Saying that Barcelona seem to be gelling together better than in the first two rounds and hitting the beginning of a rhythm in the Euroleague that, should their form continue to improve, will leave the pressure off until later in the competition. Meanwhile Panathinaikos needs to regroup and salvage their Euroleague campaign before it’s too late.

This result leaves Barcelona at 2-1 in the win/loss column and Panathinaikos at 1-2.