| On Thursday night, the big Group A showdown for first place only showed that Regal FC Barcelona deserved the top spot as the Spanish team defeated Montepaschi Siena by 85-70. The win allows Barca to finish the regular season undefeated, 10-0, a feat that had only been conquered before by CSKA Moscow in the 2004-05 season. On the other hand, Siena dropped to 8-2, having lost only to Barcelona twice. As such, with both teams already qualified before this game for the Top 16, Barca finishes first and Siena second. Barcelona started rolling with an 11-2 and never looked back, even though Siena managed to pull within 42-40, but the hosts stayed calm and reacted again for good. Six Barcelona players scoredin double digits. Ricky Rubio led them all with a double-double of 14 points and 10 assists, the latter his all-time high in the Euroleague. Three more players chipped in with 13 points each, Juan Carlos Navarro, Boni N'Dong and Fran Vazquez. Vazquez also had three blocks that made him the best blocker of all time in the Euroleague for a total 128, surpassing Denis Marconato, who didn't have any for Siena tonight, with 125. Finally, Pete Mickeal and Terence Morris had 10 points apiece for the winners. For Siena, David Hawkins led all scorers with 19 points, Terrell McIntyre added 16 and Ksistof Lavrinovic posted 10.
The game started with pyrotechnics as Ricky Rubio had a no-look backpass to Terence Morris for the slam, 2-0 for Barcelona. Later, Rubio blasted a three and then stole yet another ball to draw a foul from Shaun Stonerook and force Siena's first timeout, 7-0. The hosts' defense also started strong and on the other end Rubio fed Boni N'Dong for the alley-oop and a 9-0. It was Ben Eze, with a move in the low post, that started Montepaschi's scoring almost after three minutes into the game. Siena was struggling in offense as Barca covered all bases, but David Hawkins finally stepped up for free throws and a bucket that made it 11-6. As the guests seemed to find their pace on court, Barca decreased its tempo but Juan Carlos Navarro hit the layup to maintain a 15-8 cushion. The free throws were keeping Siena in the game when Pete Mickeal solved it fast with a slam and Morris joined in for a three that made it an 11-point game, 20-9. A turnaround jumper by Romain Sato broke a 7-0 for the hosts and Terrell McIntyre also gave some signs of life with baskets that put the lead below the 10 points again after a 0-6, 22-15, to close the first period.
Gianluca Basile opened the scoring race of the second quarter with a long jumper, but McIntyre went for his 7th straight point with a three for Siena. Both teams were trying to run now, but Ksistof Lavrinovic missed a clear mismatch with Victor Sada in offense while Fran Vazquez hit free throws for 28-18. With Erazem Lorbek and Lavrinovic scoring in the paint, the big men stepped up and Hawkins and Vazquez traded more baskets as Siena was determined not to let Barca pull away, 32-26. With Rubio and Navarro back on court, the hosts took control of the game again as the former fed Mickeal twice for easy baskets in the paint, 36-28. Barcelona's defense was like clockwork now, and Siena was having problems finding space for shooting. Sato's free throws gave Siena some air, but Ricky stole the ball to cruise for a new layup. McIntyre replied with his bomb from downtown, but Vazquez's turnaround jumper brought the crowd to their feet in the last minute. It was Eze however, who had the last say in the first half with a basket that made it 40-35 at the break.
Eze also opened the second half with a free throw for Montepaschi, Mickeal scored for the hosts but Siena was back to turn the game around. McIntyre made it 42-40, but when Rubio forced Stonerook's fourth foul, things looked a little better for Barca, 48-40 after free throws by Rubio himself and Navarro. The latter blasted a three to reply to Lavrinovic's missed bomb and to put the lead back in double digits. Montepaschi was struggling in offense again despite dominating the offensive boards at this point of the game, and only Henry Domercant free throws broke the 9-0 Barca run. Finally, the guests found the net with Domercant's three but Lorbek slammed soon to show authority of the hosts, and soon N'Dong had his own basket to put Barca at 10 points again, 58-48, but there was not time for much more as the game arrived at the end of the third quarter with Barcelona dominating, 60-49.
After two minutes with no points, Hawkins opened the scoring with two straight threes for Siena that made it 60-55, forcing Barca's timeout. Morris blasted a three for the hosts and Rubio finally fed N'Dong for a basket plus foul, but the big man missed the free throw making it 65-55. But the scoring run of the hosts didn't stop there and went up to 9-0 with N'Dong's new basket, 69-55. McIntyre and Morris traded baskets but coach Simone Pianigiani didn't like it and called for a new timeout. Lavrinovic finally found the rim with one of his shots, but N'Dong was the man of the quarter for Barcelona in offense with a new basket. Entering the last three minutes, Rubio hit two more free throws, but Eze replied with a dunk. But as the clock ticked away, Mickeal hit free throws to put the hosts in a safe place to secure the win and the first place in Group A wihtout any losses.
Thursday, January 14, 2010