FC Barcelona started the 2002-03 Euroleague season as many people expected, in a dominating way, beating Fortitudo Bologna at home on Thursday, 94-75 in Group A. The team of Bologna could only resist during the first quarter, while in the other 30 minutes, Barcelona did what it had to, taking advantage of its deep bench and the constant changes made by coach Svetislav Pesic to maintain a high intensity level. The game also marked the debut with Barcelona of Dejan Bodiroga, the MVP of last season's Final Four, who was doubtful due to a recent injury. True to form, besides his 17 points, Bodiroga showed that he can be the leader of his new team, too. For the winners, Sarunas Jasikevicius led all scorers with 18 points, Juan Carlos Navarro added 17 and Gregor Fucka nailed 11. For the losers, Emilio Kovacic put up 20 points and Gianluca Basile added 11.
The new Barça of Svetislav Pesic started the game with its biggest signings of the summer - Dejan Bodiroga, Patrick Femerling and Gregor Fucka - in the starting five, and they started well by taking a narrow but constant lead since the first minute. A three by Fucka for 5-2, opened the gap for the hosts, who was menaced by Fortitudo only after a basket by Gianmarco Pozzecco in minute 7. Nonetheless, two consecutive threes from downtown by Juan Carlos Navarro, put an end to the first quarter, 20-15.
The second quarter was a total festival for the hosts, and a curse for the guests. Five points in a row by Rodrigo de la Fuente for 26-15 made things clear. Barcelona blocked all the ways to its basket, and the Italian team suffered too much to score each of its baskets in the quarter. On the other side, Pesic tried and achieved to maintain a high level through constant changes. In minute 18, 8 players of the 10 that had played for Barcellona had scored at leats one point. Some bright details from Bodiroga, like a basket after a dribbling for 44-23 made the fans stand from their seats. At halftime, the hosts were leading by 17, 47-30, and the game was almost decided.
With four quick points by Bodiroga and Jasikevicius, the hosts increased their lead to 51-31, but Fortitudo would not surrender so easily. With a zone defense, the guests made a 0-8 run, 51-39, which forced Pesic to call for a time-out, which did not succeed in changing the tempo of the game. Fortitudo improved its defense, and the offesnive end also showed a little better to reduce the gap at 54-47 in minute 27. It was Pozzecco the one who, by himself, managed to destroy all the work of his team by being called a technical foul to be disqualified later with another foul. A three by Sarunas Jasikevicius in the last second of the third for 66-50 fell like another punishment for the nervous Italian team.
The last quarter was a mere formality, and the loudest ovation of the night was for Bodiroga when he was heading for the bench after having been fouled out. His excellent debut was recognized by the fans, who have a new idol, who formed a lethal duo with Navarro. A three-pointer by Anderson Varejao in the last second for the final 94-75 was the final touch in a game that left the fans of the home team happy. Fortitudo did all it could, but Barcelona showed that, by now, it is a better team.
Thursday, October 10, 2002