|Spain's most successful teams this decade will enjoy a titanic, first-ever clash for Euroleague survival when Regal FC Barcelona and Tau Ceramica kick off their best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series on Tuesday. Since the turn of the century, Barcelona has collected three Spanish League titles, two national cups, two Final Four appearances and, of course, the Euroleague crown in 2003. Tau has been just as prodigious, with Spanish League titles, four national cups and four trips to the Final Four. Their rivalry reached its domestic peak at last season's Spanish League finals, which Tau swept 3-0. In the Euroleague, however, these teams have met just once, in the third-place game at the 2006 Final Four, which Tau also won. The opening game is in tips off in Barcelona, but since this series has the shortest distance between quarterfinal rivals - in both distance and familiarity - it remains to be seen how much homecourt advantage will mean. Tau arrives with a reputation under head coach Dusko Ivanovic for having pulled off some of the decade's major playoff road wins. Indeed, Tau owns the only two playoff series victories by teams that didn't have homecourt advantage. Barcelona owns the top overall Euroleague record this season, 14-2, but is followed by Tau at 13-3. The are also the top two scoring teams left in the competition, although Tau's 92 points per game are 10 higher. Barcelona owns the Euroleague's best defense, however, and has allowed 12.8 fewer points per game than Tau. And then there are the matchups, including a superstar battle at shooting guard, Euroleague leading scorer Igor Rakocevic of Tau going against emblematic Barcelona ace Juan Carlos Navarro. Also on the perimeter, watch Gianluca Basile, Lubos Barton and Roger Grimau of Barcelona going against Pete Mickeal and Sergi Vidal of Tau. In the paint, Barcelona's fearsome foursome of David Andersen, Ersan Ilyasova, Fran Vazquez and Daniel Santiago will match wits and braun with Tiago Splitter, Mirza Teletovic and Will McDonald of Tau. With two teams that rank in the Euroleague's top four in both two-point and three-point shooting percentage, which can stop the other in the paint and on the perimeter will go a long way toward deciding the any game in the series. There remains a question of what shape these teams will be in on Tuesday after Tau won its Spanish League weekend game in blowout fashion on Saturday, while Barcelona lost after four overtimes on Sunday. There is also the question of how Ivanovic goes against the team he coached the last two seasons and how Barcelona's head coach, Xavi Pascual, strategizes against his former boss. All the ingredients are there for an amazing series, which should be evident in the very first game.
Regal FC Barcelona
- Barca has won 12 consecutive home games dating back to the end of the regular season last year.
- Guard Juan Carlos Navarro has made at least 1 three-pointer in 10 straight games. He is shooting 42.9% from downtown over that stretch.
- Navarro is 9 points away from matching Luis Scola for fourth place on the Euroleague Basketball career scoring charts. Navarro enters Game 1 of the Quarterfinal Playoffs with 2,045 career points.
- Barcelona boasts four players in the top 10 on the Euroleague Basketball career scoring charts. Juan Carlos Navarro is ranked fifth, Jaka Lakovic sixth, Gianluca Basile seventh and David Andersen eighth.
- Guard Jaka Lakovic is 1 steal away from tying Luis Scola for 10th place on the Euroleague Basketball career steals charts. Lakovic enters Tuesday’s playoffs game with 173 career steals.
- Big man Fran Vazquez is 1 blocked shot away from tying Gregor Fucka for fifth place on the Euroleague Basketball career charts in blocks. He enters Game 1 of the playoffs with 105 career blocked shots.
- Guard Igor Rakocevic streak of 20 consecutive Euroleague games with a three-pointer came to an end in the Top 16 finale against Olympiacos.
- Rakocevic is 2 three-pointers away from reaching Maccabi Electra’s Derrick Sharp for 10th place on the Euroleague Basketball career list. He enters Game 1 of the playoffs with 214 career threes.
- Forward Mirza Teletovic has drilled 4 three-pointers in seven different games this season and made 3 four other times. He leads the competition with 45 triples this season.
- All Euroleague center Tiago Splitter enters Game 1 of the playoffs tied for 10th place on the Euroleague Basketball career shots blocked list with Eurelijus Zukauskas. Both players have 78 career blocks.
Monday, March 23, 2009