Regal FC Barcelona bounced back from a Game 1 loss in the best-of-five Quarterfinal Playoffs series by downing Tau Ceramica 85-62 in front of a wild sellout crowd at Palau Blaugrana on Thursday night. The series is now tied at 1-1, but Tau hosts Games 3 and 4 in Vitoria next week, with the chance to make it to the Final Four in front of its fans. Barcelona needs to steal a road win to keep its Final Four chances alive. Tau overcame a slow start, as free throws by Igor Rakocevic and Will McDonald gave the guests a 23-24 edge after 10 minutes. Tiago Splitter went to the bench with early foul trouble and Ersan Ilyasova and Roger Grimau helped Barcelona to a 36-29 edge. An outstanding Jaka Lakovic helped Barcelona keep a 46-40 lead at halftime. Splitter picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter and Barcelona opted to power the offensive boards through an unstoppable Ilyasova to make it a double-digit game, 55-45. Barcelona boosted its margin to 60-47 after 30 minutes and managed to keep a safe margin all the way until the final buzzer. Lakovic finished with 17 points to lead the winners, Ilyasova posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, Fran Vazquez had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks and Juan Carlos Navarro scored 14 and dished 6 assists. Rakocevic led Tau with 18 points and Will McDonald added 14 in defeat.
Splitter got Tau going with a three-point play as Barcelona picked up three fouls in the opening 24 seconds. Lakovic answered from downtown, but a jump hook by Splitter gave Tau a 3-5 lead. Ilyasova took over with a driving layup and Daniel Santiago gave Barcelona its first lead in the series, 7-5. McDonald hit a turnaround jumper, but back-to-back jump hooks by Santiago put the hosts back ahead, 11-7. Rakocevic hit his first three-pointer only for an unstoppable Santiago to answer with a fast break layup for a 13-10 Barcelona lead. Mirza Teletovic came off the bench and immediately fired in a wide-open triple. Ilyasova also joined the three-point shootout. Rakocevic nailed a stop-and-pop jumper and Pablo Prigioni added a layup off a steal to help Tau regain the lead, 16-17. Lakovic buried a corner triple and Vazquez sent the crowd to its feet with a fast break dunk. McDonald nailed a three-pointer after a Tau timeout, but an acrobatic layup by Ilyasova gave Barcelona a 23-20 edge. Free throws by Rakocevic and McDonald provided another lead change, 23-24, after 10 minutes.
Grimau shined with a driving layup early in the second quarter as Barcelona improved its intensity at both ends with Victor Sada, Ilyasova and Vazquez together on court. Navarro buried a three-pointer, but Rakocevic quickly answered from downtown. Grimau paced Barcelona with another layup in transition and Navarro provided a highlight with an outstanding driving basket. Sergi Vidal rescued Tau with a five-meter jumper, however Ilyasova scored again in penetration. Splitter returned to the bench with 3 fouls and Vazquez hit a floating layup to make it 36-29. Vidal tried to change things with a triple and Teletovic also struck from downtown, causing Barcelona to call timeout, 36-35. Vazquez took over with a put-back dunk and Lakovic added free throws to give the hosts some fresh air, 40-35. Navarro scored off a steal, but McDonald quickly answered with a power layup. David Andersen stepped up with a put-back layup, which McDonald bettered with a three-point play. Lakovic beat the shot clock with a driving layup to give Barcelona a 46-40 edge at halftime.
Pete Mickeal stepped up with a put-back layup after the break as Tau improved its defense. Gianluca Basile buried a fallaway jumper, but he didn't find much help around. Meanwhile, a three-pointer by Mickeal brought Tau back to life, 48-45. Barcelona quickly adjusted its defense while a put-back layup by Basile kept the hosts ahead. Splitter sat down with 4 fouls and Barcelona kept powering the offensive boards. Ilyasova scored around the basket, while Tau even missed open shots now. Teletovic picked up a huge block on Basile, but a layup-plus-foul by Ilyasova made it a double-digit game, 55-45. McDonald tried to change things with a layup that Vazquez matched in the other end. Grimau made free throws after a Tau timeout, but the guests kept having trouble locking up the defensive rebounds without Splitter on the floor. Vazquez set the crowd on fire with a big block on McDonald, as Tau opted for a small lineup with Mickeal at power forward. The guests could not match Barcelona's intensity, however, and a free throw by Grimau gave his team a 60-47 margin after three quarters.
Vazquez downed a jump hook early in the fourth quarter as the hosts stayed in control. Tau needed an outstanding comeback to return to the game and Mickeal tried to ignite it with free throws, but Basile answered from way downtown to break the game open, 65-49. Rakocevic beat the shot-clock buzzer with a three-pointer, but another jump hook by Vazquez kept Barcelona out of trouble, 67-52, with less than eight minutes remaining. Vazquez added free throws as Barcelona started to use long possessions to run the game clock down. A left-handed 'bomba' by Navarro sealed the outcome, 71-54, with six minutes to go. Vlado Ilievski sank a three-pointer from the corner, but Barcelona excelled in defense, not allowing any easy shots. Lakovic capped his big game with a big triple and even when Splitter returned to the court, everything was already said and done and the Barcelona fans celebrated their first win in the series.
Thursday, March 26, 2009