Winterthur FCB made a big move toward returning to its first Final Four since winning the 2003 Euroleague title when it thrashed archrival Real Madrid 72-58 to open their best-of-three Quarterfinal Playoffs series before a sellout home crowd at Palau Blaugrana in Barcelona on Tuesday. Real Madrid will host Game 2 this Thursday in a do-or-die situation, knowing that Barcelona can advance with another win. Shammond Williams led Barcelona with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Michalis Kakiouzis added 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting off the bench while Gianluca Basile added 12 for the winners, whose regular scoring leader, Juan Carlos Navarro, was held to zero points. Louis Bullock was the only Madrid player to score in double digits with 19 points, while Venson Hamilton grabbed 12 rebounds for the guests. Madrid led 17-20 early in the second quarter, but that lasted only until Williams fired in 3 three-pointers in a 14-2 run that gave Barcelona a 34-26 halftime margin. The lead grew to to 64-44 with 4 minutes to go, by which time Barcelona was halfway to the Final Four in Prague.
Both teams started the game with strong man-to-man defense and the same pairings, with Scales guarding Navarro while De La Fuente tried to shut down Bullock. Both teams went scoreless for almost 2 minutes until Williams stepped up with a driving layup. Madrid kept struggling to score while Williams fed Fucka with a layup for a 4-0 Barcelona lead. Bullock finally hit a short jumper for Madrid but the guests had already entered the foul bonus. Scales hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to give Madrid its first lead, 4-5. Williams drew Mous Sonko's second foul while Fucka's tip-in put Barcelona back in charge, 6-5. Rakocevic came off the bench and immediately fed Bullock for a triple and a 6-8 Madrid edge. De La Fuente and Reyes exchanged layups, as Madrid kept controlling the boards. An offensive rebound by Scales allowed Rakocevic to hit a jumper, but Gianluca Basile nailed his trademark three-pointer coming off a screen which Williams followed with another triple for a 14-12 Barcelona lead. Scales and Bullock hit back-to-back jumpers and even when a red hot Basile answered from downtown, Gelabale hit a baseline jumper at the buzzer for a 17-18 Madrid edge after 10 minutes.
Scales kept pacing Madrid with a floating jumper early in the second quarter which Michalis Kakiouzis matched with a jump hook right after coming off the bench. Even with that, Barcelona had troubles in offense, as the hosts missed a third-chance offense while Basile had an offensive foul on Bullock. Bootsy Thornton solved them with an easy layup to put Barcelona back in charge, 21-20. Madrid struggled to score for 3 minutes, missing 6 consecutive shots. Kakiouzis stepped up with consecutive jumps hook, while Barcelona carried on with his outstanding defensive exhibition. Gelabale broke his team's scoring draught with a second-chance layup for a 25-22 Madrid deficit after 17 minutes. Williams returned to the floor and immediately hit consecutive three-pointers to boost the hosts' lead to 31-22, after a game-breaking 14-2 run. Rakocevic banked in an off-balanced jumper but a red hot Williams fired in another one from downtown to send the sellout crowd on their feet, 34-24. Reyes tried to change things with a close basket which brought Madrid within 34-26 at halftime.
Real Madrid opted to look for Reyes and Hervelle in the middle right after the break. Meanwhile, Williams stayed active with free throws and a wild dunk to push the hosts' lead to 38-29. Rakocevic scored a tough layup off a steal but Kakiouzis answered from downtown to make it a 10-point game, 41-31. Madrid tried short possessions now, but its shot selection did not allow any comeback. Hamilton had a big block on Fucka as the game turned into a physical battle. Fucka took revenge on Hamilton with a wild dunk-plus-foul which forced a Madrid timeout. The guests kept powering the boards but simply could not beat Barcelona's man-to-man defense, with De La Fuente shutting down Bullock. Hamilton dunked it, his first basket after 8 shots, and added free throws to bring Madrid within 45-35. It didn't last long, as Barcelona kept excelling in defense, hustling for every ball, looking for two-on-one traps and keeping its full concentration. Free throws by Basile and Denis Marconato pushed the hosts' lead to 48-35, as Madrid went scoreless for 2 minutes until Rakocevic hit 2 foul shots. Bullock scored off a quick steal but Thornton's jump hook allowed Barcelona to keep a 50-40 margin after 30 minutes.
Barcelona kept its game plan early in the final period, using long possessions while powering the offensive boards with both Marconato and Fucka. Rakocevic fed Reyes for a layup but Marconato had a big block on Edu Hernandez-Sonseca which allowed Kakiouzis to score in the other end. Basile fired in his third triple, Barcelona's first in this half, to boost the hosts' margin to 55-42 with under 7 minutes to go. Williams added a layup while the hosts' fans had already started to celebrate once Marconato's put-back dunk made it a 17-point game, 59-42. Bullock answered with a quick layup, but Madrid needed a mirace comeback to keep its chances alive. It just didn't happen, as Williams fired in a seven-meter triple while Kakiouzis made free throws for a 20-point Barcelona lead, 64-44. Nothing changed in the remaining minutes, as Barcelona will try to seal the series on Thursday, as Real Madrid faces its first do-or-die situation in order to keep its Final Four chances alive.
Tuesday, April 4, 2006