Winterthur FC Barcelona became the exclusive leader in Group C and one of the three undefeated Euroleague teams by edging Zalgiris 86-92 in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday. Barcelona is now 3-0, the only undefeated team besides Greek powerhouses Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, while Zalgiris fell to 1-2. Juan Carlos Navarro was the man of the game with 31 points on 9-for-15 shooting and 10 of 10 free throws. His 32 points were his second-best ever in a Euroleague game. Mario Kasun added 16 points and 9 rebounds for the winners while Jaka Lakovic had 10 points. Jonas Maciulis led Zalgiris with 19 points. Hanno Mottola added 18 on 8-for-11 shooting, Tanoka Beard had 14, Paulius Jankunas nad Marko Popovic 12 each and Kirk Penney 11. It was a balanced game for 39 minutes. Navarro allowed Barcelona to keep slim leads throughout the second half and hit 4 of 4 free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
It took Navarro just 10 seconds to hit his first bomb from the downtown, which Rodrigo de la Fuente followed with a long jumper before Maciulis and Popovic made easy layups. The Zalgiris defense then let Denis Marconato get loose for a dunk, but Beard answered with a triple from the left wing that brought the hosts within 7-9. Barcelona kept running its offense through its big men and that allowed the guests to keep full control. Zalgiris coach Ainars Bagatskis called a timeout that paid off as Maciulis and Popovic fueled a 10-4 run that put the hosts in front, 19-17. But Navarro hit his trademark "bomba" and then canned a jumper from the high post to give Barcelona a 19-21 edge after 10 minutes.
Jankunas got Zalgiris started in the second quarter to tie the game at 21-21, but Navarro answered with a pair of free throws. Penney stepped up for Zalgiris, as he banked in a jumper and scored in penetration. Kasun woke Barcelona up with a spectacular dunk. Zalgiris ran its offense well but struggled in defense, as Gianluca Basile followed a bomb from downtown with a layup for a 32-33 Barcelona edge. Maciulis buried a triple in transition while Jankunas fed Mottola followed for a layup. Zalgiris defense still allowed too many open spots, like Michail Kakiouzis' easy layup which gave Barcelona an six-point lead, 34-40. Zalgiris was far away from being done in the first half, as Popovic and Jankunas combined for all points in a 6-0 run which tied it at 40-40. Lakovic buried a triple but a baseline jumper by Jankunas brought the hosts withn 42-43 at halftime.
Navarro opened the second half with a quick jumper off the dribble, as Barcelona had outrebounded its opponent by 13-25 so far in the game. Navarro was unstoppable now, as he fired in two more jumpers and then buried one from downtown to give the guests a 47-52 margin early in the third quarter. Lakovic followed a layup with a big three-pointer, but Beard was not unstoppable to keep Zalgiris in the game. Popovic fed Penney for a fastbreak layup which brought the hosts within 53-57. Navarro - who else? - nailed another from downtown, De La Fuente hit a jumper while Lakovic's driving layup gave the guests a 58-64 margin. Zalgiris kept struggling in defense, as Jordi Trias dunked it while Ukic fired in an open jumper. Even when Jankunas made free throws, Navarro capped his third quarter exhibition with a layup for a 65-72 Barcelona lead after 30 minutes.
Penney got the hosts going with a triple but Ukic copied him on the other end. Zalgiris turned to man-to-man defense but Ukic canned another three-pointer from the right corner. Jankunas tried to wake Zalgiris up with free throws and Maciulis added a put-back basket, and by the time Mottola bettered Kasun's layup with a triple, Zalgiris had got within 75-80. Maciulis hit another from downtown to send the crowd on their feet. Kasun and Jankunas exchanged free throws but Barcelona kept running its offense through Navarro, who followed Kakiouzis' jumper with a critical layup. Mottola drove from the high post and dunked it to bring Zalgiris within 84-86 with a minute to go. Penney buried Zalgiris' hopes with an unsportsman foulon Navarro, who calmly made free throws to give Barcelona a 84-88 edge and ball possession. More free throws by the ever-present Navarro and a dunk by Kasun fixed the final score at 86-92, as Barcelona handed Zalgiris its second Euroleague loss of the season.
Thursday, November 9, 2006