Barcelona downed Partizan 82-64
First place in Top 16 Group E was decided in the very last game on Thursday as Regal FC Barcelona was crowned group champ at home by beating Partizan 82-64. The win improved Barca's record to 5-1 and avenged its only loss of the Euroleague season so far, by one point to Partizan in Belgrade earlier in the Top 16. Partizan dropped to 3-3 but knew earlier in the evening, when Panathinaikos eliminated Maroussi, that it was going to the playoffs for a third consecutive season. In the quintessential Spanish derby, Barcelona will meet archrival Real Madrid in the Quarterfinal Playoffs starting March 23. Partizan will square off with Maccabi Electra in their best-of-five series. On Thursday, Partizan managed to challenge until halftime, but a 12-0 third-quarter run allowed Barcelona to jump ahead for good. Juan Carlos Navarro led the winners with 18 points, Gianluca Basile added 13, Erazem Lorbek had 11 and Jaka Lakovic chipped in with 10. For Partizan, Lawrence Roberts led the way with 14 points, Aleks Maric nailed 11 and Jan Vesely contributed 10.
Roberts opened the game with free throws for Partizan, while Ricky Rubio fed Lorbek in the paint for a layup that got Barcelona in the scoring column. A great steal-and-layup by Bo McCalebb on Rubio and a basket by Maric pushed Partizan ahead by 2-7 before Navarro drove to score for Barca. On a steal off a full-court press, Navarro made a basket-plus-free throw to tie 7-7. His next score off another steal gave the hosts a 9-7 lead, but Aleksandar Rasic ended Barca's 7-0 run with a layup. Both teams concentrated on tough defense until Roberts took back the lead with the game's first three-point shot. Vesely soon slammed off a fastbreak for an 11-14 Partizan edge. Pete Mickeal stepped up for Barcelona on offense and defense, while Navarro drew his fifth foul for 3 free throws that put Barca ahead again, 16-14. Lorbek added to the difference with a sweet move in the paint before Dusan Kecman and Lakovic exchanged free throws. Partizan was getting offensive rebounds but committing turnovers, one of which Jordi Trias fed to Fran Vazquez for a dunk that left the hosts ahead 22-16 after 10 minutes.
The Barcelona defense started working at full throttle in the second quarter, which Roger Grimau opened by extending the lead. Partizan answered with defense as consecutive steals combined with Maric's rebounds and finally Roberts ended bombing from downtown made it 24-21. Points were otherwise scarce now, except at the foul line, where Kecman points soon made it a one-point game again, 26-25. Barcelona struggled when Partizan could set its defense until Navarro finally scored Barca's first three-pointer from the corner to light up the home crowd. Partizan didn't panic, but kept playing patiently on offense and aggressively on defense. Barcelona's equally good defense didn't pay off again until Basile got 2 more points at the foul line and Vazquez slammed off Rubio's no-look pass after a steal but Maric's free throws to end the half left a 36-30 scoreboard.
The second half started well for Barcelona with a 5-0 run capped by Basile's three-pointer from the corner. Partizan tried a timeout but found itself smothered, unable to take a shot during the first 2 minutes of the third quarter. Nonetheless, the visitors kept working to stay in the game thanks to back-to-back triples from Rasic and Vesely that cut the difference to 41-35. Basile took care of business with a new three-pointer for Barcelona, which resumed forcing Partizan turnovers. Free throws by Vazquez pushed the lead over 10 points, and when Rubio stole and fed Basile for a new triple, the game changed direction again. Basile then stole and hit a fastbreak layup for a 51-35 Barcelona edge and a Partizan timeout. The hosts' scoring run went up to 12-0, until Kecman's three-pointer finally broke it for Partizan. Navarro re-appeared from the bench for his own shot from downtown, and when McCalebb was called an unsportsmanlike foul, Mickeal made it a 20-point game, 58-38, at the foul line. Maric got free throws and an open slam now for Partizan, but Lakovic answered from the arc for a 61-42 Barcelona lead after 30 minutes.
McCalebb opened the last quarter with a good layup, but Roger Grimau replied fast for Barcelona, once again from the arc. Vesely and Lakovic traded three-pointers as now both teams seemed content to exchange baskets, to the advantage of Barcelona, which stayed ahead 69-53 with 6 minutes left. After more free throws were traded between Vesely and Lakovic, it was becoming clear that the Barcelona defense wasn't about to give up the easy points Partizan would need to rally. Instead, Barcelona just managed its margin with patience as Navarro hit 2 more free throws to make it 74-55 with 3 minutes left, during which time the local fans celebrated a great win to enter the Playoffs with the homecourt advantage.
Thursday, March 11, 2010