Barcelona edged Panathinaikos 72-70 after a thrilling session of overtime in game one of their Euroleague quarter-final tie at the Palau Blaugrana.
With the game tied at 64-64 after four quarters of actions, the extra five minutes was tense as the Greens very nearly snatched home court advantage off the favourites. A three though from Juan Carlos Navarro with two minutes remaining in the extra period was the dagger that the 2011 Euroleague winners couldn’t recover from.
Navarro, who lives for the big stage led his side with 14 points as Barcelona rallied from six points down with six minutes to go to force overtime.
“We have played much better in the third and fourth quarter, more aggressive, cutting turnovers,” Navarro said through a translator. “We have to wake up tomorrow knowing that we did wrong. I am very happy with the effort we put out there. We had a lot of open shots that did not go in.
“We have to rest and to get ready for Game 2. We knew that playoffs games are like this – you never know what to expect. We play again in less than 48 hours and game two will be as tough as this one. We got back in the game twice against a team that controlled the rhythm well and that’s important.”
Despite defeat, Panathinaikos will feel confident enough going into game two knowing that they pushed Barca to the limit and ever so nearly picked up what would have been a priceless win.
James Gist and Stephane Lasme each hit 14 points to lead Panathinaikos who started off aggressively. A 14-0 run in the first quarter gave them a commanding 21-11 lead after the first ten minutes. Barcelona hit back in the second period though thanks to three-pointers from Navarro and Marcelinho Huertas as they took a 34-32 lead going into the break.
Lasme and Sarunas Jasikevicius took over as Panathinaikos re-took the lead 51-45 despite the best efforts of Barca’s Joe Ingles towards the end of the third. That led to a thrilling finale.
Afterwards, Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual understood the meaning of winning a game without playing your best. Barca’s win was about character.
“We made 53 percent of our free throw attempts and Panathinaikos 47 percent, which in usual in Game 1 of the playoffs,” he said. “We missed outside shots, both teams missed free throw attempts and that reflects how demanding these games are. It cannot be any other way with these two teams. I am very happy with this win.”
The two teams meet again on Thursday night.