Kinder Bologna has turned itself around just in time for the holidays in a Group B that was suddenly growing dangerous, even for the defending Euroleague champs. At home in Palamalaguti arena Thursday against the team it was tied with, visiting Barcelona, Kinder registered a 91-81 win to retake sole possession of first place in Group B. The victory ended Kinder's rare two-game losing streak and came despite the absence of center Rashard Griffith. Another star was on duty for Kinder, however. Emanuel Ginobili scored 28 points to lead the winners, while Matjaz Smodis added 21 coming off the bench. In a back-and-forth game, it was enough to outlast Barcelona, for whom Ademola Okulaja tallied 26 and Juan Carlos Navarro 15. Kinder is now 7-2 on the season and has beaten Barcelona twice, which will come in handy in any tie-breaker is needed between the two teams. Barcelona falls out of what was a first-place tie into a four-way fight for second place, at 6-3, with Ulker Istanbul, Union Olimpija and Opel Skyliners.
Kinder without Griffith had no trouble getting started in the first quarter. Becirovic stole made a fourth steal in a row for the home team and went for an easy dunk on the break giving Kinder the 11-0 start to the game. That forced a Barcelona timeout, of course, but when the teams came back, Ginobili sank a triple and Alessandro Frosini two free throws as this most incredible run reached 16-0. Barcelona finally scored its first basket from the field after four minutes on a dunk by Okulaja. Karnisovas found three-point range, and when Efthimios Rentzias added one more dimension by posting up the ailing Andersen, Barca was back in the game. Kinder lost for a while the tempo of the game and Barca pulled within 22-14 with by making free throws while Becirovic was called for his second and third fouls. Kinder still led 24-20 with a minute to go, but when Juan Carlos Navarro sank a three-pointer at the buzzer, the home team's lead was down to two, 26-24, despite a 16-0 start to the game.
Barcelona had another awful start in the second quarter as it was outscored by Kinder 7-0. But Barça a Rentzias triple, a convential three-point play by Rodrigo De la Fuente and five points by Nacho Rodriguez set the scoreboard at 37-34 midway through the quarter. Ginobili took Kinder by the hand, as Messina exploited two power forwards to open the court. Smodis hit two three-pointers, and Ginobili ended with 20 points at the halftime. Kinder was back with a seven-point lead, 51-44, thanks also to great plays by Andersen, who helped his team to lead 19-12 on rebounds despite Griffith's absence. Barcelona had already committed 14 turnovers.
Barca reacted swiftly in the third quarter, making some great shots to in a 9-0 run, all on three-pointers. Okulaja drained two of them and Sarunas Jasikevicius one, and when it was over, Barcelona was sitting on a 57-58 lead. Kinder started reestablishing the lead with the help of a flagrant foul called on Jasikevicius. Kinder converted those free throws and Abbio followed up with a key basket on the break to put the home team ahead 71-66. It started to look like a heavyweight title fight as Barca now found the strength to make an important 4-0 mini run before the end. As such, the third quarter ended with only one point to defend for Kinder, 71-70.
Navarro gave Barca back the lead of the game, 74-73. But then, Kinder received two great plays from Andersen, one resulting in a pair of free throws and the other a great crossover to take back the lead of the game 77-74. When Navarro missed a wide open shot, Smodis took advantage with a heavy triple and the Kinder lead stood at 80-74 with 5:40 to go. Kinder completed the 11-0 run to skate ahead to 84-74. That was 10 points too much and several minutes to little for another Barcelona comeback, and the lead in Group B was now back in Kinder's hands.
Thursday, December 20, 2001