Top 16-bound Barcelona was a little too much for already-eliminated Alba, beating the German champs on the road in Berlin, 66-80, in the last regular season game for both teams. The victory came with a prize for Barcelona: Despite finishing 11-3, Barcelona placed second in Group A due to a tiebreak loss with Benetton. Nonetheless, Wednesday's victory assured Barca the best second-place record in the regular season, meaning it will head one of the four Top 16 groups to be drawn on Saturday. Barcelona's dominance inside already supplied a basis for the victory in the first half on Wednesday against an Alba frontcourt that missed injured rebounder Quadre Lollis. Barcelona was led in scoring by Dejan Bodiroga with 21 points and Juan Carlos Navarro with 16. Anderson Varejao sparked the defensive effort with 12 rebounds and 5 of Barcelona's 9 blocked shots. Alba, which could not finish any better than seventh, win or lose, saw its record settle at 4-10. The Berliners got a huge performance from center Jovo Stanojevic, who finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, while DeJuan Collins chipped in 14 points and 6 assists.
The game started slow, with both teams immediately putting much emphasis on defense and looking on offense for the easy baskets inside. Barcelona led 6-8 after 5 minutes when outside shooting started to make a huge difference: Collins and Stefano Garris missed their three-pointers, while Sarunas Jasikevicius popped 2 in a row and Gregor Fucka another, boosting Barca to an 8-19 lead in just the next 2 minutes. With both coaches inserting their bench players now, Alba at the end of the first quarter forced some turnovers from Barcelona, but Stanojevic missed 2 of 4 free throws that would have reduced Barcelona's lead below 14-22 at the end of 10 minutes.
In the second quarter, Alba kept on missing shots, even many easy ones, which gave local product Patrick Femerling and Bodiroga the opportunity to put Barcelona further ahead at 14-28. Barcelona now began to build a frightening dominance under the boards with Roberto Dueñas intimidating Alba's undermanned front line and Varejao grabbing lots of offensive rebounds. Alba was missing Lollis badly and did not have much to throw against Barcelona's huge frontcourt except Stanojevic, who led his team into halftime with 13 points. He got little scoring help at all from Alba's other players, however, as the hosts managed to make only 31 percent of their shots from the field in 20 minutes. The result was an already-dominant 26-45 lead for Barcelona, which already had 10 points from Bodiroga and 9 from Dueñas.
Alba came out of the break with some better shots by Garris and Collins and quick fingers on defense, which left Barcelona scoring only 2 points during 5 minutes but could only diminish the deficit to 35-47. Barcelona did not like Alba's quick tempo, but got some relief in the form of 2 three-pointers, from Navarro and Rodrigo De la Fuente, that pushed the lead up to 37-53. Alba was looking quicker on the boards, too, but continued to miss enough open shots to lag far behind. Collins finally hit Alba's first triple of the game and Stanojevic cut Barcelona's lead down to 11 points, 45-54. After Navarro and Femerling added baskets for Barca, Stanojevic scored the last points of the quarter, but the visitors' 11-point margin still held 47-58.
In the final quarter, Alba continued to rely successfully on Stanojevic, just as Barcelona did on Bodiroga, who drew the fifth foul on Garris. Bodiroga wanted to decide the game quickly, but missed twice against Collins in attempt to increase what was a 54-66 lead. Alba fought hard, but the clock was against the Berliners. When Navarro drilled 2 baskets for 61-75, the outcome was clear. Barcelona's future looked even better, but Alba would have to wait for another year.
Wednesday, February 12, 2003