Barça are playing their best ball just when it matters most. And that’s especially so in Europe, where they won tonight at the always testing OAKA, 56-63, in a game that was largely won in the first half (32-44). Huertas was outstanding before the break, while in the second half, Barça managed their lead to perfection, although there were a few nervous moments towards the end.
Barça were imperial early on, and took just two minutes to build up an eight point lead (2-10) which had been extended to eleven after five (4-15 min 5) thanks to a Marcelinho three. But Panathinaikos, spurred on by over 20,000 fans, immediately responded and brought the game back level on the basis of 3-pointers from Maciulis, Fotsis and Curry. The period ended with Barça in front by the minimum (23-24).
Marcelinho continued his fine display as Barça once again built up a big lead of nine points (23-32). The Brazilian played 13 minutes straight before being replaced by Sada. This time Barça did manage to defend their lead, and with Papanikolaou scoring five almost consecutive points, the half ended with the visitors twelve up (32-44).
The home side started the third period with a 7-0 streak (39-44), but Barça regained control of the game just in time, and their lead was about to return to double figures when Oleson missed a basket on the counter and a 3-pointer from Diamantidis ended the period with the Catalans ahead at 47-52, but with plenty to play for in the last ten minutes.
The final period had a bit of everything. Oleson made up for his previous error with a 3-pointer and Huertas came to the rescue with some top quality defending, while also contributing four consecutive points to widen the gap once again (51-59 min 33).
Navarro’s entry caused the home side to adjust their game-plan, and Papanikolaou pounced on the uncertainty to make it 54-62 with four to go. Those four minutes saw some sloppy play from both sides and little change in FC Barcelona’s lead, and it all ended 56-63, making Barça the only side still unbeaten in the Top 16.