| Regal FC Barcelona stayed as the only undefeated team left in the Euroleague and got closer to win Group A by thrashing Zalgiris 89-55 at home on Thursday. Barcelona leads Group A with a 8-0 record and will be first with a road win against Asvel if Montepaschi Siena - second at 7-1 - loses at home against Fenerbahce Ulker. Barcelona, however, can win Group A with a home win against Montepaschi in the final regular season date, regardless of any other scores. Meanwhile, Zalgiris dropped to 1-7, registered its seventh consecutive loss and needs two wins and several other results to reach the next round. Pete Mickeal paced the winners with 14 points. Juan Carlos Navarro added 13, Terence Morris had 11 while Roger Grimau and Boni Ndong each got 10 for Barcelona. Travis Watson led Zalgiris with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Dainius Salenga added 10 points for the guests. Free throws by Salenga gave Zalgiris its only lead, 12-13, late in the first quarter. A layup by Erazem Lorbek ignited a game-breaking 14-0 run that Ricky Rubio capped with a corner triple that boosted the hosts' lead to 4-28 at halftime. Nothing changed after the break, as Barcelona kept a safe lead all the way until the final buzzer.
Barcelona placed team captain Grimau in its starting lineup to guard Marcus Brown, who went scoreless in the opening 4 minutes before heading to the bench. Navarro fed Ndong for a layup to get the hosts going and soon scored in transition for a 4-0 lead. Grimau took over with a driving layup but Salenga dunked it off a steal to get the guests within 6-2. Grimau fed Ndong for an easy slam and soon added a dunk in transition to make Zalgiris call timeout at 10-2. Mantas Kalnietis shined with a floating jumper and soon scored in penetration to bring Zalgiris back to life, 10-6. Ndong sank a turnaround jumper but Salenga bettered that with a catch-and-shoot triple, good for a 12-9 Zalgiris deficit. Watson scored down low and free throws by Salenga completed his team's comeback, 12-13. Sada and Mickeal made 6-of-6 free throws, as Barcelona tried to attack the basket once Zalgiris got into the foul bonus. Mickeal managed to stop Salenga and shined with a fast break layup but free throws by Tadas Klimavicius and a running jumper by Brown got Zalgiris within 20-17 after 10 minutes.
Brown took over with a driving basket early in the second quarter that Fran Vazquez matched with a two-handed dunk. Marty Pocius scored in transition, as Zalgiris tried to speed up the game tempo. Gianluca Basile downed his trademark 'tiro ignorante' from way downtown but a big dunk by Watson kept Zalgiris as close as 25-23. Morris sank a three-pointer and soon added a reverse layup to keep Barcelona out of trouble at 30-24. Zalgiris could not get Brown or Watson involved now and called timeout to adjust its offense. Navarro sank his signature floating jumper and fed Lorbek for an easy layup. A off-balance jump hook by Lorbek gave the hosts their first double-digit lead, 36-26. Grimau shined with a power layup and Navarro finished a long, two-chance Barcelona offense with a seven-meter triple that broke the game open, 41-26. Zalgiris kept committing turnovers - as many as 6 in this quarter - while free throws by Navarro and a wide open triple by Rubio allowed Barcelona to break the game open, 46-26, after a 14-0 run. A layup by Kalnietis brought Zalgiris within 46-28 at halftime.
Navarro kept pacing Barcelona with a floating jumper immediately after the break, as Zalgiris tried to play more aggressive at both ends. Navarro took over with a fast break layup that Salenga bettered with a three-pointer. Barcelona tried to play with more patience in offense, now looking for early shots now. Mickeal scored in transition but Barcelona entered the foul bonus very early in the third quarter. Watson sank 3-of-4 free throws but a jumper by Mickeal restored a 20-point Barcelona lead, 54-34. Lorbek took over with a three-point play, as Barcelona looked to improve its intensity with Rubio, Mickeal and Ndong together on court. Mickeal provided a highlight with a layup-plus-foul and a tip-in by Ndong soon made it a 28-point game, 62-34, after a 10-0 run. Rubio took over with a reverse layup, Mickeal beat the shot clock with a triple and a dunk by Jordi Trias fixed the score at 69-37 after 30 minutes.
The outcome was clear but Zalgiris kept trying, looking for Mirza Begic and Watson for easy points in the paint. Begic sank free throws and soon added a put-back dunk to get the guests within 69-41. Barcelona kept trying to run the clock down and Trias sank a mid-range jumper. Kalnietis sank free throws, as Barcelona tried to please its fans with some spectacular plays in the final 6 minutes. Morris buried a three-pointer and Sada added a backdoor layup for a 76-44 lead. Morris stayed on fire from beyond the arc and free throws by Ndong boosted the hosts' lead to 81-45 with 4 minutes left. Everything was said and done already, as Barcelona confirmed that few teams, if any, will be able to steal a road win at Palau Blaugrana in this 2009-10 Euroleague season while Zalgiris returned home with very slim chances to stay alive in the competition.
Thursday, December 17, 2009