Lottomatica Roma rejoined the fight to reach the Quarterfinal Playoffs in Top 16 Group G by rallying to edge AXA FC Barcelona 68-63 in the Italian capital on Wednesday. Lottomatica, Barcelona and Unicaja join a three-way tie for the decisive second spot at 2-3, behind Group G champion CSKA Moscow, first at 4-1. Barcelona holds the tie-break advantage against Lottomatica and Unicaja, so it will reach the playoffs if it beats CSKA at home next week. Meanwhile, Unicaja hosts Lottomatica and the winner of that game will finish second if CSKA downs Barcelona. Erazem Lorbek led the winners with 16 points while Roko-Leni Ukic and David Hawkins each added 11 for Roma. Roger Grimau had 21 points for Barcelona and Jordi Trias added 17 on 8-for-9 shooting. Lottomatica's lead peaked at 30-18 on a three-pointer by Jon Stefansson, but Grimau and Ersan Ilyasova brought Barcelona within 33-30 at the break. An incredible layup-plus-foul by Grimau completed the guests' comeback, 46-48, late in the third quarter. Pepe Sanchez gave Barcelona a 54-61 lead but the guests went scoreless over the next four minutes. Meanwhile, Roberto Gabini and Lorbek fueled an 11-0 run that Ukic capped with a driving layup to put Lottomatica back ahead, 65-61, with 27 seconds to go. Rodrigo De La Fuente and Hawkins sealed the outcome from the foul line.
Hawkins began the contest with a lay-up and dunk and after Lorbek laid one up and in, Hawkins dunked for a second time to give the hosts an 8-0 lead. Trias stopped the rot for Barcelona with a basket, only for Ukic to reply with a shot down low to make it 10-2 in favor of the Romans. Trias was very active early on and scored underneath after catching a pass from Grimau. Trias followed with a jumper as the visitors kept the game close. Roma remained hot though and opened up a 16-8 lead after a Lorbek basket. Ilyasova converted a three-point play to trim the advantage to 16-11, but a couple of Lorbek baskets and 2 Gregor Fucka free throws gave the Romans a 22-12 lead at the end of the first period.
In the second quarter, Ilyasova struck again, this time with acrobatic layup, only for Stefansson to reply with a three-ball to make it 25-14 in favor of Roma. When Hawkins, who had gone out of the game, returned to the action and passed to Stefansson, the Icelandic star drilled his second three for a 30-18 lead with seven minutes remaining in the half. Inspired by Ilyasova's creativity and Grimau's hot-hand, Barcelona went on a 10-0 run. Grimau had 6 points in that surge as the visitors cut the deficit 30-28. Roma struggled against Barcelona's zone, but ended a five-minute drought with a three-pointer from the top of the key by Gabini. Ilyasova was proving tough to handle, though, and his layup made it 33-30 and that’s how the first half finished.
After the break, Lorbek tapped in a Hawkins missed layup as Roma began well. Sanchez's foul put former Barcelona star Rodrigo de la Fuente on the line and he converted both shots to extend the lead to 37-30. Lorbek's jumper completed a 6-0 spurt from Roma before Trias made back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to 39-34. Roma looked strong as Ukic converted his first attempt from behind the arc to stretch the advantage to 8. Grimau cut the deficit to 5 with a three-ball midway through the quarter and then added a three-point play after a foul by Ibrahim Jaaber to cut the deficit to 42-40. A key moment soon followed. Another Grimau three-point play after a foul by Alessandro Tonolli put Barcelona in front 47-46. His desperation jumper gave Barca a 50-46 lead going into the final quarter.
Barcelona opened up a 52-46 lead after a Trias basket. Stefansson and Hawkins hit consecutive jump shots as Roma closed the gap to 52-50. And after a Trias lay-up, Fucka’s three-pointer got the Roma crowd to its feet. When Gary Neal buried a three for Barca and that was followed by a Sanchez layup, the visitors looked good bets for victory with a 61-54 lead five minutes from the end. After Jaaber drove and scored, Ukic was closely guarded by Ilyasova and made a jumper to tie the contest at 61-61 with three minutes remaining. With 2:15 to go, Ilyasova was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Lorbek, who made both free throws to give Roma a 63-61 advantage. After a couple of misses for both sides, Ukic drove into the lane and scored to put Roma ahead 65-61 with 26 seconds remaining. Grimau cut the deficit to 65-63 with a strong move to the basket before Roma head coach Jasmin Repesa called for a timeout. After Fran Vazquez fouled out and sent De La Fuente to the line where he split a pair to make it 66-63, Gabini fouled Sanchez with 12 seconds remaining, but Barcelona was not in the bonus and got no free throws. After play resumed following a Jasmin Repesa timeout, Roma still had fouls to burn and De la Fuente fouled Grimau with less than 9 seconds remaining. Barcelona’s Neal eventually broke free to put up an attempt from long range with 4 seconds to go, but threw up an air ball and Roma rebounded. Sanchez fouled Hawkins with 2.12 remaining and he made both free throws for a 68-63 win.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008