FC Barcelona will finish the Top 16 as the winners of Group E, and that’s with two games to spare. Their 12-0 record is simply stunning, and after little trouble disposing of their Greek visitors this evenings, now it’s just a matter of waiting to see who they’ll be playing in the playoffs, which will be the fourth placed team in the other group, who as things stand is most likely to be either Lokomotiv Kuban of Russia or Galatasaray of Turkey.
Panathinaikos, who are still chasing confirmation of the fourth qualifying berth from the group, were keen to become the first team to defeat Barça in this phase, but despite a solid display in the first period, from then on they were on an unhappy road to nowhere. Barça ended up winning by 22, with Abrines, Navarro and Pullen all effective at throwing threes, and Lorbek, Tomic and Dorsey delivering on the paint.
Dorsey’s spectacular plays and consecutive three pointers from Lorbek and Oleson midway through the second period were the spark that lit the home side into action. Until then, the defending had been questionable and Panathinaikos held the slight edge, but all that quickly changed. A highly motivated Pullen put on a wonderful display of long-range shooting, with Juan Carlos Navarro adding his first points of the evening on the stroke of half-time. Ten-up at 42-32, Barça already had a lot of the hard work done before the break.
There was no major suffering in the third period, with Barça’s lead staying safely in double figures in a quarter that started with Navarro bagging another three and ended with Batiste doing likewise to build the lead up to a monumental 18. That meant that the final period was only going to be question keeping things sensible and playing down the clock.
But Abrines wanted more, and the Mallorcan’s two threes early in the final period sent Barça over the 20-point mark, and his own personal tally to 15. By this stage, Panathinaikos were absolutely resigned to defeat, and the Barcelona fans could celebrate top spot in their Top 16 group, and now only one team stands between them and a place at the Final Four in Milan.