Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 19, 2013
bwin Euroleague Fantasy Challenge
Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
NIKE International Junior Tournament
ROAD TO PARIS: Regal FC Barcelona
Regal FC Barcelona is back in the Final Four for the 11th time in club history - an all-time record since the format was chosen back in 1988. Despite such success, however, Barcelona arrives as hungry as any team could be. So far, its record number of Final Four appearances have yielded just one Euroleague trophy, in 2003 before a home crowd. There is nothing Barcelona would like more than to prove its first title was no fluke by making its place among the world's elite basketball clubs countable in multiple trophies. Now is just such a moment to provide such proof, too. Its talented, deep roster and added experience since last season's Final Four have turned Barcelona into a rock-solid contender heading into Paris for this season's trophy tussle.
An eventful off-season demonstrated that Barcelona does what it takes to compete at the highest level. Even after having made the Final Four months earlier, the club reloaded its entire frontcourt, adding muscle, athleticism, talent and experience in the trio of Terence Morris, Boni Ndong and Erazem Lorbek, who was coming off an All-Euroleague campaign. And even when Barcelona kept all of its backcourt stars - reigning Euroleague MVP Juan Carlos Navarro, Jaka Lakovic, Gianluca Basile and Roger Grimau - it also landed a world-class gem, teen superstar point guard Ricky Rubio. Last, but certainly not least, Barcelona unified the roster by putting all-energy all-the-time Pete Mickeal at small forward to bridge the overflow talent between its small and big players. "A new stage starts for me," Rubio said upon arrival. "We have the pressure to win but the roster required to do so."
Head coach Xavi Pascual's team rolled from the very start, leaving no doubt about its power and potential with convincing, back-to-back wins against Fenerbahce Ulker and Cibona. Mickeal had 26 points on a near-perfect shooting performance against FB Ulker and Navarro led Barcelona with 20 points against the Croatian powerhouse. Barcelona battled hard to edge Zalgiris 70-77 in Kaunas and, with a 76-62 home win against Asvel Basket behind an unstoppable Mickeal, set up a big showdown between undefeated teams. Barcelona faced a tough trip to Siena but sent a message that echoed all around the league with a 65-84 road win against Montepaschi. Ndong shined with 19 points, as Barcelona showed its full potential.
"We are on the right track, we are not thinking about being the strongest team in Europe," Lorbek said after the game. "We only want to work more in order to improve."
Mickeal was chosen as the SportingBet December MVP for his outstanding effort in that month. Barcelona stayed rock-solid and kept rolling. Whether at home in Palau Blaugrana or on the road, the victories came fast as the team showed virtually no weaknesses. Barcelona overwhelmed FB Ulker and Zalgiris with the same final score - 89-55 - and downed Cibona 66-80 in Zagreb. Barcelona downed Asvel 64-90 behind 15 points from Navarro and grabbed a final 85-70 regular season home triumph against Montepaschi with 14 points and 10 assists from Week 10 co-MVP Rubio. As such, Barca finished the regular season undefeated, 10-0, a milestone that had only been accomplished before by CSKA Moscow in the 2004-05 season.
"The result is good, but the good things start now in the season with the Top 16," Navarro said. "We are in a good moment, are working well and hope to continue that way. Our game is good and the crowds come to the Palau, and that helps us make it even better."
A good start was needed in the Top 16 for Barcelona to confirm its status as major Final Four contender and was delivered in the form of a 79-69 home win against Maroussi. Once again Navarro paced the winners with 17 points and 8 assists. In the second game, however, Barcelona registered its first Euroleague loss of the season to Partizan in Belgrade, a 67-66 overtime defeat. It all came down to one shot, but Lawrence Roberts swept the ball away from the rim once the board was illuminated, signaling time had expired. Instant replay was needed, but the shot was not counted. For the first time all seasons, Barcelona needed to bounce back and did so in a huge way, topping Euroleague defending champs Panathinaikos 83-71 with 17 points from Grimau.
"The group is super balanced and anything can happen," Pascual said after beating Panathinaikos. "There are many games ahead though, and nothing is decided yet."
Faced with a pivotal rematch against Panathinaikos in Athens, Barcelona managed to show its character by overcoming a difficult, and potentially dangerous, situation. Barcelona trailed 61-50 with 6 minutes left but a 4-18 run allowed the guests to escape with a good-as-gold road win. Barcelona soon punched its ticket to the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a resounding 58-85 road win against Maroussi with 14 points from Lorbek and finally won Top 16 Group E by downing Partizan 82-64 at home behind 18 points from the ever-present Navarro. The club's biggest archrival, Real Madrid, was waiting in the playoffs.
"Barcelona is a great team with immense potential," reigning Aleksandar Gomelskiy Trophy winner and Partizan head coach Dusko Vujosevic said. "To me, it would be a real surprise that they didn't win the title in the end."
Barcelona had beaten Real Madrid in three official games in the Spanish League earlier this season, but the Quarterfinal Playoffs proved to be very different. Injury-free and ready, Madrid led for the best part of Game 1 and kept a 57-60 edge with 4 minutes left. Barcelona found a go-to guy in Mickeal, who had 8 unanswered points in a game-deciding 11-0 run that allowed Barcelona to get a 68-61 victory. Madrid bounced back in Game 2 with a take-no-prisoners defense and with center Ante Tomic as its biggest weapon offense. Tomic had 22 points as Madrid handed Barcelona a 63-70 loss, its first home defeat in any competition for more than a year, and stole homecourt advantage in their best-of-five series.
"It is a long series and the right mentality is seeing that we have more games to play," Lorbek said after Game 2. "The score has been close in both games and I know it will be difficult to play in Madrid, but we must be ready for the challenge."
As such, Barcelona needed to win at least once in the Spanish capital to keep its Final Four chances alive, but it would have to do it in front of 14,500 Madrid diehard fans at Palacio Vistalegre. Barcelona managed to play more up-tempo in Game 3 and rolled from the very beginning to record a pivotal 73-84 road win. Navarro, who had averaged 7.5 points and missed all 10 of his three-point tries in the first two games, was just unstoppable in Game 3, scoring 24 points, including several shots from way downtown. Barcelona got a 2-1 lead in the series and won the chance to seal its ticket to Paris in Game 4. Once again, Navarro shined with 21 points to lead Barcelona to a series-cliniching 78-84 win. Rubio added a career-high 19 points to lead Barcelona all the way to Paris. Navarro was chosen as the SportingBet April MVP for his outstanding performances in Madrid, leading Barcelona to the Final Four.
"We lost against CSKA last season, so we have an extra motivation to play against them in the Final Four," Mickeal said. "I am very happy to go to Paris and be part of something so special."
Even when 10 Barcelona players have Final Four experience - as many as eight were on the roster when they made it to Berlin last season - Navarro is the only one that managed to lift the Euroleague trophy before, back in 2003. The fact that Barcelona faces CSKA in the semifinals adds even more drama and interest to their semifinals showdown. CSKA downed Barcelona in the Euroleague semifinals in 2006 and 2009 - the club's last two Final Four appearances. With 11 players averaging at least 10 minutes and Mickeal leading everyone at just 26 per game, it is safe to say that one of Barcelona's main strengths is its bench depth. The combination of a hungry, ready and talented team, one of the best young coaches in Europe and a sports club with one of the biggest winning traditions in the world is an unbelievable one for Barcelona. The hardest part, go to Bercy and win the 2010 Euroleague title, is yet to arrive.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Regal FC Barcelona
NIKE International Junior Tournament
FINAL FOUR TEAMS
REGAL FC BARCELONA
FINAL FOUR SCHEDULE
SEMIFINALS - FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2010
Regal FCB 64-54 CSKA Moscow
Partizan 80-83 OT Olympiacos
3RD PLACE - SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010
CSKA Moscow 90-88 OT Partizan
FINAL - SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010
Regal FC Barcelona 86-68 Olympiacos
Final Four Slides
PAST FINAL FOURS
TEL AVIV 2004