| Regal FC Barcelona closed to within a victory of reaching the Quarterfinal Playoffs when it disposed of host Alba Berlin 57-75 on Thursday at the o2 Arena, site of the 2009 Euroleague Basketball Final Four. Barcelona dominated with defense and led 19-40 at halftime en route to its third straight Group F win. While putting on a defensive clinic, holding Alba to just 32 points after three quarters, Barcelona also made some offensive history thanks to one of its biggest stars. Shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro opened the second half with a three-pointer that saw him join the competition’s exclusive 2,000-point club, just the sixth player this decade to reach that mark. Navarro finished by scoring 13 of his 18 in the second half to pace the winners. Barcelona is now 3-1 and will wrap up a spot in the Quarterfinal Playoffs with a win in either of its remaining games. David Andersen added 10 points as 11 different players scored for the winners, who outrebounded Berlin 21-34. Immanuel McElroy paced Alba with 11 points and Rashad Wright added 10. Berlin, meanwhile, fell to 0-4 and elimination. It will have to watch the playoffs from home and wait for the Final Four to come to town in early May.
Defenses ruled early before Navarro started the scoring by cutting back-door for a one-hand shot. When Santiago assisted Andersen for a dunk, Barcelona led 4-0. McElroy started Alba's scoring column with free throws and Casey Jacobsen's jumper soon drew Alba within 4-6. Andersen banked in a shot from the post, and Navarro hit a fastbreak triple as Barcelona pulled away 4-11, forcing an Alba timeout. McElroy responded with a tough triple for the hosts, then assisted Rashad Wright for another from the corner to suddenly make it 10-11. Andersen answered again, however, while Santiago blocked Aleksandar Nadjfeji and assisted Barton for a corner triple. Then Sada stole and scored to make it, just as suddenly, 10-18, where the scoreboard stayed until the first quarter finished.
Barcelona's run continued into the second quarter as Sada and Fran Vazquez got to the basket early for layups. When Ilyasova busted a triple from the corner, Barcelona had scored 14 unanswered points and owned a 10-25 lead. Wright finally ended Alba's bleeding with a steal and tough layup, but nothing came easy for the hosts. Sada made it look easy with an alley-oop pass dunked by Vazquez. Grimau did the same with an open layup follow by an open triple to make it 14-32. Andersen was silky on another jumper and, after an Alba timeout, added Barcelona's first free throws by drawing Ansu Sesay's third foul to make it 16-36. On the other hand, Alba managed only free throws until Nadjfeji got loose for a fastbreak dunk. Sada's connection with Vazquez worked for another pair of dunks in the half's final minute to punctuate Barcelona's first-half domination at 19-40.
Navarro started the third quarter with triple from the top to reach 2,000 points for his Euroleague career, only the sixth player to do so this decade. Now, however, Alba responded with Wright shooting from the corner McElroy getting a pair of layups and newly-signed big man Blagota Sekulic scoring inside to make it 28-46. Navarro was not in the mood for a comeback, however, and buried another triple. By the time he and Sada hit pairs of free throws, it was 30-53, and though Alba got the matching baskets now, by Wright and Adam Chubb, Barton got the last one of the third quarter for a 32-55 score.
Andre Barrett got into the Barcelona scoring fun with a triple to open the final quarter, and when Navarro canned his fourth, the visitors reached their high lead of 34-61. Alba started polishing up the score, with some baskets and a three-pointer by Jacobsen. Barcelona was content to trade points even at the expense of a Top 16 defensive record try. The visitors rested their big guns down the stretch, but even their replacements put on a show for Alba's 10,000-plus fans, who had to be wondering if a masterful Barcelona might return to o2 Arena at Final Four time.
Thursday, February 19, 2009