Turkish Airlines Euroleague
May 24, 2013
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Tel Aviv 2004
Qualifying Rounds 2012
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FC Barcelona Regal
By reaching its third Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four since 2009, F.C. Barcelona Regal this season has already been able to live up to its incredibly high standards. With its 12th Final Four appearance overall since the first one, back in 1989, Barcelona continues showing great consistency and readiness to challenge for the Euroleague trophy. The 2012 Final Four gives Barcelona a chance to keep adding to its stuffed trophy case, which now boasts nearly 40 domestic honors and six European trophies, including two as continental champion.
Founded in 1926, Barcelona had its first golden age during the 1980s. The club reached the 1984 Euroleague final before falling to Virtus Roma, then won three other continental trophies – the Saporta Cup in 1985 and 1986, the Korac Cup in 1987 – behind legends like Nacho Solozabal, Chicho Sibilio, Andres Jimenez and Juan Antonio "Epi" San Epifanio. The team's winning momentum climbed from there as Barcelona made it to the Euroleague Final Four in three successive seasons starting in 1989, but lost to eventual champion Split each time, including twice in the title game. Later that decade, Barcelona added two more finals appearances, in 1996 against Panathinaikos and in 1997 against Olympiacos, but could not take the Euroleague trophy back home.
After winning the Korac Cup trophy in 1999, Barcelona's golden opportunity came in 2003, with the Final Four coming to its home court. Under head coach Svetislav Pesic, the club brought together Dejan Bodiroga and Gregor Fucka to join Sarunas Jasikevicius and Juan Carlos Navarro, and they delivered a Final Four berth. In front of nearly 17,000 fans at Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona beat Benetton Treviso 76-65 to finally claim its first Euroleague title. Barcelona returned to the Final Four in 2006 and 2009, but did not get past the semifinals either time. It all clicked again for Barcelona in 2010, however, with Xavi Pascual as head coach and Navarro the team's homegrown superstar. Barcelona stormed into the Final Four with an 18-2 record and beat both CSKA and Olympiacos by double digits to lift the continental trophy for a second time.
Despite an early playoffs exit against Panathinaikos last season, Barcelona came right back this year with Chuck Eidson and Marcelinho Huertas as its main additions to complement Navarro, Pete Mickeal, Fran Vazquez, Boni Ndong and Erazem Lorbek. Barcelona won its regular season group, was the only undefeated team in the Top 16 and became the sole team to sweep its best-of-five playoffs series, downing Unics 3-0 to land a spot in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four with a near-perfect 18-1 record. No Euroleague team has been able to defeat Barcelona at Palau Blaugrana this season, as the club won all of its home games by an average margin of 14.9 points. Along the way, Barcelona has posted record-breaking defensive numbers, allowing only 61.5 points per game. In one of those home games, against Union Olimpija, Navarro became the Euroleague's all-time top scorer, accumulating 2,840 points before the 2012 Final Four. So far this season Lorbek has been the team's top scorer (13.8 ppg.) and rebounder (4.7 rpg.). Barcelona has been just as deadly on the road, knocking off Maccabi Electra, Zalgiris, Galatasaray Medical Park, Bennet Cantu and Unics in intimidating surroundings.
They say defense wins titles, a plus for Barcelona, but the team also has scorers like Navarro, Lorbek, Mickeal and Eidson, who add up to a formidable offensive force with great one-on-one skills. All of them are natural-born winners, too, so expect Barcelona to play its best basketball on the biggest stage possible – the 2012 Final Four!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
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