Dimitris Diamantidis scored a huge three-pointer in the dying seconds for Panathinaikos to snatch a precious 66-65 away win over Euroleague favorite Barcelona on Thursday and tie the best-of-five quarterfinal at 1-1, with the series now coming for two games to Athens.
The Greens felt hard done by in Game 1 of the series two days earlier, when they lost to the Catalans in overtime, but this time luck was on their side and their second superb performance was crowned with victory in Spain.
Just like on Tuesday, the game could have gone either way, as Panathinaikos advanced 19-11 at the start of the second period but Barcelona bounced back to lead 40-27 in the third.
Yet this Panathinaikos, coached by Argyris Pedoulakis, is a match for anyone in Europe just like it did under coach Zeljko Obradovic up to last summer. It staged a comeback with a partial 18-5 score to tie the game at 45-45 and lead 60-58 with a couple of minutes left thanks to another spectacular game by James Gist.
And when Juan Carlos Navarro scored one out of two free throws to make it 65-63 in the host’s favor, captain Diamantidis showed why he is considered the best Greek player of his generation by scoring the decisive three-pointer with just a handful of seconds on the clock.
Gist was the Greens’ top scorer with 14 points, with Michael Bramos adding 13 and Diamantidis 10.
If Panathinaikos wins both games in Athens next week, it will qualify to the competition’s Final Four.
This victory came on the same date, April 11, as the first Greek triumph in a Euroleague final in 1996 when Panathinaikos had again beaten Barcelona in Paris for the first of its six European trophies.