| Regal FC Barcelona confirmed its status as a strong contender for the title when it got its first home in on Thursday against Cibona, 81-59. After a tight
first half in which Cibona defense managed to keep Barcelona scorers rather quiet, Juan Carlos Navarro and Boniface N'Dong sparked up a third-quarter storm
that allowed the hosts to break the game open for good. Terence Morris and Roger Grimau joined the party later to confirm a new win that lifts Barca to the
top of the Group A standings with a 2-0 record, while Cibona loses its second in a row and drops to 0-2. Navarro led all scorers with 20 points and Morris
added 17 for Barca. For the guests, Marko Tomas led the way with 16 points and Jamont Gordon posted 12 for the losers. For Cibona, Antonio Graves finished
the game with a surprising 0 of 7 from the field.
Gordon fired Cibona off fast with back-to-back threes for a starting 0-6, but Navarro replied in the same manner soon to tie the game again, 6-6. The scoring
run went up to 11-0 as Terence Morris added five points of his own, coming from good defenses that allowed for fast oofensive transitions for Barca. Marko
Tomas woke Cibona up from the charity line, and Gordon added two more points, but the hosts always found the man inside with good assists to stay ahead.
Defenses prevailed until Vedran Vukusic broke the spell with a three that was also the first field goal for Cibona from a player other than Gordon. Cibona
also went up a notch in defense, keeping Barcelona scoreless for more than three minutes except Victor Sada's free throw as the first quarter ended with a
Roger Grimau stepped up to start the second period with five consecutive points, but Bojan Bogdanovic and Tomislav Zubcic joined up to make up for that
burst. Barca tried to move the ball fast in offense, looking for the extra pass and Fran Vazquez first and Navarro later punished the Croatian rim for a 27-
18 edge in minute 15. Tomas' three-pointer put Cibona back in the game as the defense of the guests forced two straight 24-second violations on Barcelona,
prompting Xavi Pascual's timeout. The trick worked as Ricky Rubio stole the ball and fed Morris for a monster dunk that fired up the stands, 29-23. All the
14 points of the hosts in the quarter at this point came from the frontcourt until Navarro reached his 11th point with a three for 34-25 and then his 14th
with a new bomb for the first double-digit lead of the night, 37-25. Navarro was on fire as he went to the line for his 8th straight point and at the same
time, Cibona clashed again and again against the hosts' hard defense. It was Tomas who scored a fadeaway jumper in the end of the second quarter to close the
10-0 burst for a 39-27 halftime score.
Morris opened the second half with free throws, and Pete Mickeal joined the party with points for Barca. Tomas was still the most active player in offense
for Cibona, as the big men of Barca were intimidating time and again all the attempts of the frontcourt of the guests and Morris sank an alley-oop that
turned the situation around, 49-31. Gordon stole the ball and slammed it to draw applause from the home crowd, but Morris broke the zone defense of Cibona
feeding Boni N'Dong for a slam and a 52-35. That play woke N'Dong up as he kept making the margin on the scoreboard bigger. At the same time, Marin Rozic
stepped up for sixth straight points for Cibona, but Gianluca Basile shut him up with a new three that put a 20-point gap, 59-39. A new three by Basile and a
great Rubio steal and layup combo closed the third quarter with a 64-41.
An alley-oop by Grimau with Vazquez opened the last period, but Tomas replied soon with a new three. Grimau was the soul of Barcelona now, and he kept the
scoring going, but at this point both sides knew who the winner was. Even Jaka Lakovic, coming from injury trouble, managed to make his debut this season
with 4:30 to go in the game. Cibona already knew that the win would stay in Barcelona and the hosts simply had to cruise to the final win for a strong start
of the season.
Thursday, October 29, 2009