Regal FC Barcelona retained its share of first place in Group B by rolling to a 60-75 road victory over winless Zalgiris in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday. The win boosted Barcelona's record to 4-1, keeping it tied with Montepaschi Siena and Panathinaikos Athens at the halfway mark in the regular season. The night belonged to Barcelona star Jaka Lakovic, who not only led the winners with 22 points on 5-for-5 three-point shooting, but joined an exclusive club, too. Lakovic's final triple, late in the third quarter, made him just the fourth Euroleague player to surpass 2,000 points this decade. Juan Carlos Navarro followed with 14 points for Barcelona. Big man Daniel Santiago posted a double-doube of 11 points and 11 rebounds, followed closely by David Andersen's 11 and 7, respectively. Loren Woods led Zalgiris with a near-perfect performance: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks while shooting 8 for 8 from the foul line. Paulius Jankunas followed him with 17 points, while Jonas Maciulis added 12. A lack of depth hurt Zagliris, however, as the rest of the team added only 13 points.
Barcelona went inside to Andersen early, getting his free throws and short jumper for a 0-4 lead. Maciulis opened scoring for hosts hitting 1-2 free throws but they continued to come up empty in offense until the very same Maciulis scored on a fastbreak. Barcelona countered with Navarro's trademark "La Bomba" shot, a dunk by Santiago and a driving layup by Lakovic to race ahead 3-10. After Zalgiris coach Gintaras Krapikas took a timeout, Woods sparked the hosts with a turnaround swish, but Navarro and Santiago kept the guests way ahead, 5-14. Lakovic made it a 12-point game, 5-17, with a running triple before Mantas Kalnietis boosted Zalgiris with a driving layup and a corner three-pointer at 10-17. Navarro and Lakovic restored Barcelona's double-digit lead at 10-20 as Jankunas hit free throws. Zalgiris, with youngster Sarunas Vasiliauskas on Navarro and Jankunas blocking Santiago's shot, improved its defense but struggled to score now. Santiago rebounded with a layup-plus-free throw before Woods dunked at the buzzer off a steal by Kalnietis to get Zalgiris within 14-23 after 10 minutes.
Roger Grimau opened the second quarter with fastbreak layup off his own steal, but Zalgiris did not find answers on offense until it found a go-to guy in Maciulis, who banked in a stop-and-pop jumper and added free throws to get the hosts within 18-25. Barcelona had already entered the foul bonus and now struggled against a Zalgiris zone defense. Head coach Xavi Pascual used a timeout to discuss the situation, after which Fran Vazquez delivered a huge reverse dunk-and-free throw. Maciulis and Lakovic then traded bombs from downtown before a three-point play by Jankunas kept Zalgiris within 24-31. Navarro ran the court and fed Andersen for an easy layup but Zygimantas Janavicius matched it with a driving basket. Maciulis made free throws, as Barcelona could not find the way to the basket until Lakovic connected again from three-point distance. Woods scored off an offensive rebound and free throws but Lakovic also got the foul line to fix the halftime score at 32-38 in favor of the guests.
Dainius Salenga made free throws right after the break but Santiago scored in the low post to give Barcelona some fresh air, 34-40. The guests could not feed Andersen and Santiago down low. Woods stepped up with a put-back dunk that Jankunas followed with a layup to make it a two-point game, 38-40. Navarro sank his trademark "bomba" that Kalnietis matched with a fast break layup. Navarro insisted with free throws but Jankunas shined with a second-chance layup for 42-44 Zalgiris deficit. Lakovic buried his fourth triple while Ersan Ilyasova added a fast break basket in a 0-7 Barcelona run that Navarro capped with a huge reverse layup. Jankunas hit a turnaround jumper off a Zalgiris timeout and added a triple but Lubos Barton and Lakovic - his 2,000th career point in Euroleague history - answered from downtown. Andersen sank his trademark turnaround jumper and then followed Navarro's "bomba" with a buzzer-beating triple to boost the guests' margin to 48-64 after 30 minutes.
Zalgiris needed a quick comeback to keep its options alive and Woods tried to ignite one with a put-back basket. Barcelona knew exactly what it had to do - use long possessions and power the offensive boards. Lakovic took over with a driving layup that Woods erased with free throws. An unsportsmanlike foul by Kalnietis allowed Gianluca Basile to seal the outcome, 52-68, with under 6 minutes to go. Zalgiris called timeout to at least try to reduce its deficit but Santiago shined with a tip-in and Andre Barrett fired in one from downtown, good for a 52-73 score. Everything was said and done already, as Barcelona sat out its main players in the final minutes once it made sure it would go back to Barcelona with a win. Meanwhile, Zalgiris needs a major turnaround to keep any chances to make it to the Top 16.
Thursday, November 27, 2008