F4 coverage: Barcelona claims third spot

Barcelona have claimed third place in the 2012 Euroleague after a narrow 74-69 win over Panathinaikos in Istanbul.

It was mere consolation though for Barcelona, who are still frustrated about Friday’s upset loss to Olympiacos.

“The impressions from the last game were not really good. And for that we would like to apologize. We came here hoping to become the Euroleague champion,” Barca coach Xavi Pascual admitted.

He added: “The leadership of the team was particularly good. We were really disturbed about losing the semi, so this victory gives us a little boost of self-confidence.”

Marcelinho Huertas led all scorers with 21 points supported by Joe Ingles 13 point effort but the lack of celebration at the end told the story.

Panathinaikos fans from the tip were holding banners protesting CSKA Moscow’s involvement in the final by claiming the Euroleague bribed the referees to get the Moscow side to the final and even during the contest; the interest was more on booing the referee’s stop-start calls and not cheering their team’s buckets.

The game lacked intensity from the start; Juan Carlos Navarro was rested for Barcelona as was Sarunas Jasikevicius for Panathinaikos who also decided not to start Dimitris Diamantidis, who spearheaded Panthinaikos with 17 points

A three from Huertas gave Barcelona an 11-7 lead early as he hit 10 points in the first quarter. Panthinaikos hit back mainly from the foul line in a first period that ended with a Diamantidis triple to narrow the gap to one at 20-21.

Both teams were rotating at regular intervals but it was Barcelona who gained the upper hand, a 6-0 run mid-way through the second gave them a 31-40 advantage, and they maintained their nine-point lead at the interval in a game where most of the action was going on the stands as the Olympiacos fans had started to pile in towards the end of the half.

Aleks Maric, who ended with 13 points for the Greens stamped his authority on proceedings in the third, scoring five points in three minutes to pull the deficit back to 45-52, but the Catalan giants hit back to restore the nine-point cushion they had been comfortable with for the majority of the second period.

Joe Ingles hit foul shots to give Barcelona a 58-49 lead, but Diamantidis replied back for three to reduce to deficit to six heading into the final ten minutes.

A beautiful feed from Fran Vazquez inside to C.J Wallace gave Barcelona an 11-point lead at 63-52 but back-to-back triples from Kostas Kaimakoglou and Diamantidis in quick succession wiped the double-digit lead back to single-figures.

In the end, Barcelona held on. Diamantidis was on his fourth foul with 2:14 left and Barcelona secured the game from the line.

Despite defeat, Panthinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic was proud of his team and even though there was minor crowd trouble, thanked the thousands of Pana fans for showing their support.

“I’m really very proud of my team. We played a great semi-final against CSKA. Like any game for third place, this game was very difficult to play. Today we tried to fight and I believe it was a nice game. One more time, I want to thank our fans because of their support. Four thousand of them came from Athens despite difficult situations,” he said.