As the NBA Playoffs continue their long and incredibly intriguing march, I am in Barcelona for the 2011 Euroleague Final Four liveblogging the title game between Panathinaikos and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Nine minutes before tipoff: Both teams are introduced with Panathinaikos receiving the honors first. The crowd begins to really erupt with Maccabi’s supporters comprising approximately 65% of the Palau Sant Jordi.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who played for years for bitter Panathinaikos rival Olympiacos, receives the loudest jeers.
Starting lineups: Dimitris Diamantidis, Nick Calathes, Romain Sato, Antonis Fotsis and Ian Vougiokuas for Panathinaikos. Maccabi to start Jeremy Pargo, Chuck Eidson, Lior Eliyahu, Guy Pnini and Sofoklis Schortsanitis.
How they arrived to championship game: Panathinaikos defeated Montepaschi Siena by a 77-69 final on Friday to reach the title game. They were largely led by the play of Calathes in the semifinal, though it has been all about Diamantidis throughout the entire Euroleague season. He won the 2011 Euroleague Most Valuable Player award.
Maccabi beat Real Madrid by an 82-63 final, with Jeremy Pargo and Chuck Eidson pacing David Blatt’s side.
Opening tip-off: Vougioukas and Schortsanitis take the opening tip, which is batted out of bounds and Pargo is unable to save it. Possession for Panathinaikos.
First play of game: Lob from Diamantidis to Vougioukas is unsuccessful.
First points for Panathinaikos: Turnover by Maccabi in halfcourt set allows Diamantidis to get challenged breakway layup.
First points for Maccabi: Sofo is doubled in left block and finds Pnini in right corner for open three-pointer.
7:27: Defense from Panathinaikos has been physical with multiple hard-fought blocks. Their ability to keep Schortsanitis from getting anything easy
7:13: Diamantidis pass over defense to Vougioukas for easy layup.
As expected, Diamantidis will have his fingerprints all over this game and will obviously need to be brilliant for Panathinaikos to win.
6:46: Maccabi playing frantic and uncontrolled after a Pargo double-dribble. Pnini requests calm and order to be restored.
6:33: Second personal foul for Vougioukas sends him to bench. Eidson hits three-pointer for Maccabi.
5:19: Pargo draws foul on Sato attempting two-hand dunk in halfcourt. He makes both free throws and is replaced by Tal Burstein.
4:51: Fotsis draws second foul on Schortsanitis on an ‘And-1’ putback following a miss from Aleks Maric.
First timeout of game: PAO up 10-8. Seven players have scored in the game.
4:22: Pnini hits wide-open three-pointer out on kick out from Pargo.
4:06: David Blu goes to line in bonus situation with Panathinaikos committing their fifth foul in the quarter.
3:49: Travel call on Maric on next possession. Maccabi has taken momentum as Mike Batiste checks in for first time.
The game is tied at 13-13.
3:31: Panathinaikos runs pick-and-roll with Calathes and Batiste, with the big getting the ball at the bucket for a defensive goaltending.
3:00: Diamantidis completes breakaway layup after stealing pass from pargo.
2:32: Another pick-and-roll for Batiste, which is finished at rim on Richard Hendrix
18-13 Panathinaikos with Batiste sporting a well-deserved +5 so far.
1:22: Another pick-and-roll bucket for Batiste, this time from Diamantidis.
0:42: Three-pointer by Diamantidis.
End of first quarter: Panathinaikos leading 22-15. The entry of Batiste changed the complexion of the quarter.
Panathinaikos was significantly more aggressive and confident on both ends of the floor, triggering nearly all of the action.
Beginning of second quarter: Eidson hits right elbow three-pointer on Maccabi’s second possession to make score 22-18.
8:24: Three-pointer for Diamantidis on pass from Sato out of left corner. He is the best player on the floor right now by a wide margin.
7:19: Eidson hits a nice mid-range jumper. Panathinaikos is doing a good job in clogging lanes and limiting the dribble penetration of Pargo, forcing Maccabi to hit their perimeter jumpers.
6:53: Pnini picks up second personal foul clobbering Diamantidis out of his dribble drive in the middle of the lane.
6:10: Drew Nicholas hits extremely difficult runner off glass in what was one of Maccabi’s best defensive possessions of the game.
5:36: Extremely difficult runner from about 15 by Eidson as shot lock expires. He has 10 of Maccabi’s points and is almost single-handedly keeping it close. Maccabi trails 24-27.
4:22: With Diamantidis on bench, Calathes finds Maric for lob layup. Calathes hasn’t made the same type of impact in this game so far as he did on Friday, but that has been mostly because of the excellent play of Diamantidis.
4:01: Schortsanitis returns to the game and is called for a three-second violation on first offensive possession for Maccabi.
3:19: Blu hits corner three-pointer to make it a two-point game.
2:38: Stratos Perperoglou keeps Panathinaikos possession alive with tip on offensive rebound and eventually hits corner jumper to give his side a two-possession lead once again.
2:09: Diamantidis checks back into game and misses three-pointer off dribble near top of key.
1:29: Blatt calls timeout following a dubious travel call on Sato.
1:16: Pargo finds Blu for elbow three-pointer out of Maccabi timeout.
0:52: Sato responds for Panathinaikos with deep two-point jumper.
0:29: Batiste checks back into game for Panathinaikos.
End of first half: An errant pass from Calathes leads to a broken play shot attempt for Panathinaikos.
Panathinaikos leading 33-30 over Maccabi as both teams go into locker rooms.
Eidson leads all scorers with 12 points, while Blu has chipped in eight points. The three-point shooting of Maccabi (6-for-13) has been their primary saving grace because they have otherwise been largely outplayed.
For Panathinaikos, it has been largely the play of Diamantidis and his nine points and five assists. In just over seven first half minutes, Batiste has scored seven points on perfect shooting.
Beginning of second half: As final twenty minutes get underway, the crowd begins to get louder after a nearly silent intermission.
Following the announcement that the 2012 Euroleague will be played in Istanbul, Panathinaikos takes floor with Diamantidis, Nicholas, Batiste, Sato and Fotsis.
Maccabi starts Pargo, Schortsanitis, Pnini, Eidson and Blu.
9:12: Nicholas finds Batiste for first bucket of second half.
8:58: Pargo finishes very impressive 180 layup out of dribble penetration in traffic.
7:31: Maccabi takes 36-35 lead on low post bucket from Schortsanitis. The fans from Israel are at their loudest of the day.
7:04: Nicholas hits deep two-point jumper near top of key to quickly give Panathinaikos the lead back.
5:55: Schortsanitis picks up third foul in extremely cheap fashion on a reach against Nicholas following a Maccabi miss.
5:18: Sato hits three-pointer out of kick from Diamantidis following pick-and-roll with Batiste.
4:41: Sato hits three-pointer from right side on another kick out on another Diamantidis/Batiste pick-and-roll.
The bucket gives Panathinaikos a 43-36 lead.
4:15: Blu completes conventional three-point play to stop fun and reduce deficit o 43-39.
3:51: Nicholas gets extremely friendly bounce from rim on three-pointer at end of Panathinaikos shot clock. Credit to Fotsis for nice touch pass to Nicholas.
3:09: Maccabi is beginning to do a better job in defending the middle of the lane against the Panathinaikos pick-and-roll, but that has come at the expense of yielding fairly easy perimeter jumpers.
3:01: Calathes checks back into game to replace Diamantidis in what should likely be his final rest of the game.
1:50: Tepic takes his man Milan Macvan to the ground on baseline drives and finishes two-hand dunk on Hendrix to extend the Panathinaikos lead to 51-40.
31.6: Blu hits left corner three-pointer on pass from Pargo to make the score 51-43.
10.0: Sato hits yet another three-pointer in this third quarter to extend the lead to 54-43. Sato is a 36.6% shooter from distance this season.
End of third quarter: Eidson makes three-pointer clearly after buzzer sounds, but is initially awarded to Maccabi. After the officials look at the replay, the bucket is waved off. The score remains at 54-43 in favor of Panathinaikos.
Pargo showed bad time awareness in getting Eidson the ball and hasn’t made much of an impact in this game. If Maccabi is to comeback from their 11-point deficit, they will need Pargo to be the triggerman.
Beginning of fourth quarter: As Diamantidis remains on the bench, Batiste is whistled for a foul battling with Sofo fighting for position in the post.
9:46: Maccabi finds Schortsanitis for an easy dunk on baseline out of bounds play.
9:27: Schortsanitis picks up fourth personal foul attempting to defend Calathes on pick-and-roll.
9:04: Pargo hits layup on backdoor pass from Blu.
8:56: Nicholas hits quick three-pointer in early offense.
8:38: Diamantidis returns to game.
7:55: Nicholas hits runner to give Panathinaikos 59-47 lead.
7:18: Following a close miss by Schortsanitis, Diamantidis draws a foul on Pargo on dribble drive.
Maccabi calls timeout with blood definitely being in the water. They cannot afford to come up empty on very many more offensive possessions.
Diamantidis rattles in the first attempt and swiches the second to give Panathinaikos a 61-47 lead.
7:03: Lior Eliyahu gives Maccabi instant offense off the bench with a bucket to make it a 61-49 game.
6:37: Pnini hits an easy layup for Maccabi in halfcourt to cut the deficit down to 10.
5:40: Referees take away a Pargo bucket in transition on a traveling call.
5:27: Batiste converts power slam on pass from Diamantidis.
5:04: Batiste misses layup on feed from Diamantidis that would have given Panathinaikos a 65-51 lead and would have probably sealed it.
4:50: Pargo hits runner out of ISO to make it a 63-53 game.
4:29: Calathes returns to replace Nicholas.
4:27: Pnini swipes Sato in the eye after contesting an in-bounds play after the whitle stops.
4:26: Eliyahu completes ‘And 1’ coming from Maccabi baseline out of bounds play. He has made a huge impact offensively for Maccabi since coming into the game.
4:00: Batisite hits layup in halfcourt to make it a 65-56 lead for Panathinaikos.
3:21: Nicholas breaks down Eliyahu near top of key for another long two-pointer and Panathinaikos takes a double-digit lead again at 67-56.
3:19: MVP voting turned in.. I select Diamantidis for Panathinaikos if they hold on and Eidson for Maccabi if they can somehow make the seemingly insurmountable comeback.
3:01: Eidson makes one free throw, misses the second and Eliyahu misses the put back attempt and then fouls Fotsis to setup the bonus situation.
2:23: Batiste misses layup in halfcourt, leaving the score at 67-57.
2:11: The score remains at 67-57 following two misses from Pargo.
2:11: Diamantidis secures rebound and is immediately fouled. The MVP makes both free throws.
2:02: Eidson makes both free throws to make the score 69-59.
A few yellow shirts begin heading for the exits, which feels a little premature and pessimistic.
1:57: PAO has trouble with the Maccabi press and Sato fouls Eliyahu after the turnover. Eliyahu misses first and converts second free throw.
1:51: Maccabi forces another turnover after a bad pass from Calathes that Nicholas is unable to hold onto.
1:41: Eliyahu hits runner to cut the Panathinaikos lead to 69-62.
1:32: Human wall begins to gather around the court as Panathinaikos calls timeout.
1:32: Calathes is unable to get the ball in for Panathinaikos and Maccabi takes over on the five-second call.
1:20: Corner three-pointer for Pnini rims out, but Eliyahu converts put-back to make it a 69-64 game.
1:02: Panathinaikos stops the run with Batiste layup on a mismatch with Pargo on him. The lead is now 71-64.
54.9: Diamantidis makes both free throws to make it 73-64.
46.0: Pargo drive makes it 73-66.
33.8: Panathinaikos handles the Maccabi pressure and they eventually are forced to foul Diamantidis. Pnini has fouled out of the game.
Diamantidis misses the first free throw and converts second to make it a 74-66 game.
29.9: Eidson draws foul quickly and heads to line where he makes both free throws. Maccabi trails 74-68.
27.7: Nicholas receives in-bounds pass and is promptly fouled. He misses both free throws and Eidson secures rebound.
19.0: Eliyahu converts layup on pass from Eidson to cut lead to 74-70.
12.6: Panathinaikos breaks press and Maccabi is slow to foul, finally catching up with Batiste. The American big converts both free throws to give Panathinaikos a six-point lead again.
03.6: Eidson misses three-pointer and Footsis grabs rebound.
Diamantidis puts both arms into the air with the title all but assured for Panathinaikos.
Sato makes both free throws to give Panathinaikos a 78-70 victory.
End of game: Panathinaikos storms to midcourt as the buzzer sounds as the 2011 Euroleague champions.
Panathinaikos was the much better team today. Diamantidis controlled the play throughout and received huge boosts with the interior scoring of Batiste and the huge third quarter from Sato on the perimeter.
Pargo and Schortsanitis did very little of consequence for Maccabi and were kept in the game by Eidson, Blu and Eliyahu. Maccabi deserves credit for mounting a comeback late in the game after they were all but dead. They had a chance to steal a game they had no business winning.
Trophy Presentation: As expected, Dimitris Diamantidis named Most Valuable Player of the Final Four in a fitting culmination of an incredible season.