Regal FC Barcelona downed Maccabi Electra 74-90 on Thursday at Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena to lock up first place in Group F and home-court advantage in the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Barca will meet Spanish League rival Tau Ceramica in the upcoming best-of-five playoffs. Gianluca Basile drilled 7 three-pointers in 9 attempts to finish with 23 points to lead Barca to its fifth straight win. Fran Vazquez’s strong play inside helped Barca back from a small deficit in the second period to take a 39-45 halftime lead and the visitors steadily built on it thanks to a balanced attack that featured five scorers in double figures in route to the win. Juan Carlos Navarro added 19 for the winners, Vazquez scored 15 with 3 blocked shots, Ersan Ilyasova produced 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks and Danial Santiago scored 11. Maccabi’s Marcus Brown became the first player to reach 2,5000 points in Euroleague Basketball history as he finished with 16. Carlos Arroyo also scored 16 for Maccabi, while Lior Eliyahu and Omri Casspi added 12 each and Charles Gaines posted 9 points and 9 rebounds.
There were expectations of a fast-paced, high-scoring game from the start as both teams opened with three-guard lineups – Arroyo, Marcus Brown and Dee Brown for Maccabi and Victor Sada, Navarro and Basile for Barcelona. Each team misfired once before Dee Brown opened the scoring with a triple. David Andersen’s baseline jumper accounted for Barca’s first basket before a Navarro three gave the visitors the lead. Maccabi tied it twice through Eliyahu and Marcus Brown, but Basile kept Barca ahead with a pair of triples. A pair of baskets inside from Eliyahu tied the score at 13-13. The Maccabi defense managed to quiet Barca’s attack while Gaines capped a 7-0 run with a follow-up basket to put Maccabi up 3. Navarro and Ilyasova kept it close with free throws only to see Marcus Brown bury a three from the corner. Navarro added 2 free throws to make it 22-19 at the end of the opening period.
Vazquez put in a jump hook over Gaines, but Eliyahu matched him at the other end. Vazquez added another basket on the offensive glass, threw down a one-handed jam to tie the score and came up with an impressive block as Barca tried to take control. Another Vazquez slam put Barca ahead only for Eliyahu to answer for Maccabi. Roger Grimau became the first Barcelona player not named Fran Vazquez to score in the period and soon after Navarro drilled a three in transition. Tal Burstein led Maccabi back with 4 free throws, a steal and an assist to Marcus Brown for a jumper. Basile answered from downtown, but Bustein fed Gaines for a slam. Ilyasova hit a jumper from outside before Marcus Brown weaved his way to the basket for his 2,500th career point. Basile and Andre Barrett worked the break brilliantly to get the former a basket and Santiago dropped in a second-chance dunk that gave the visitors a 39-45 lead at halftime.
Basile picked up where he left off in the first half by drilling his fifth triple of the night. Marcus Brown pulled up for a three at the other end, however the visitors continued to push and soon an Ilyasova triple put Barca up 10. Casspi’s first basket was followed by a Gaines basket-plus-foul as Maccabi drew within 49-54. Dee Brown provided a highlight with a block from behind of a Santiago dunk attempt – Santiago is 31 centimeters taller than Brown – that led to a fast break basket, but Santiago came right back with a powerful two-handed jam. Ilyasova restored Barca’s 10-point lead with a triple and a bank shot. Jaka Lakovic added a free throw as the visitors took a 55-66 advantage into the final period.
Vazquez increased Barca’s lead to 13 before Casspi rifled in a triple. Vazquez followed Lubos Barton’s miss for an easy bucket and Basile netted another three-pointer as the Maccabi fans began to lose hope. Arroyo scored twice to make it 62-73 and then drew an offensive foul from Sada. Casspi added another basket, but Navarro fed Vazquez for a pretty basket that restored order. Navarro went through Burstein for a three-point play that put Barcelona ahead 66-78 with three minutes to play. Lakovic added a three to ice the win as Barca could start to celebrate first place in the group, while Maccabi bid farewell from the Euroleague for the season.
Thursday, March 12, 2009