FC Barcelona got a larger share of first place in contentious Group G on Thursday by beating Adecco Asvel on the road by 68-77. Barca led from the first minute, but Asvel was never too far behind until the final quarter, when Gregor Fucka allowed the visitors to open a gap of 10 points and cruise to the finish. Barcelona improves to 3-1, and ties atop group G with Olympiacos, who won in Athens earlier Thursday against Union Olimpija. Barca and Olympiacos face each other in the next game on April 10 in Athens. Asvel, on the other hand, dropped to 0-4 and mathematical elimination from any Final Four possibilities. The winners were led by the 23 points from Sarunas Jasikevicius, including 4-for-6 three-pointers. Fucka added 20 points and 10 rebouds and Dejan Bodiroga contributed 19 points. For Adecco Asvel, Andre Owens led the way with 16 points and only Davor Marcelic, with 12 points, managed to join him in double digits.
The game started with Fucka getting to the line and drawing a pair of fouls on Sacha Giffa. After Asvel missed a couple shots, Jasikevicius hit back-to-back triples for a 0-7 Barca lead. Asvel found difficulties in overcoming Barcelona's defense, while the guests moved the ball smartly to find the way to the basket. A pair of free throws by Robert Gulyas finally inaugurated Asvel's scoring column, by which time Barca awas up 2-9. Jasikevicius hit his third triple in as many attempts for 11 points of a 6-15 lead for the visitors. Asvel coach Philippe Herve called a timeout, but 2 free throws by Jasikevicius and a Bodiroga triple followed, earning Barcelona the first double-digit lead of the night, 8-20. But then Vasco Evtimov stepped on the floor to replace Gulyas, and he led a 6-0 runto within 14-20 with 1 minute to go in the period. Patrick Femerling managed to score the last basket to put Barca in front 14-22 after 10 minutes.
Once Asvel managed to get close, it would not let go. The hosts forced Barca to score only 4 points in the first 6 minutes of the period, thanks to a tight defense in the lane that forced the outside shots that didn't go in for the guests. With Simon Petrov on court, and Evtimov winning the battle under the boards, Asvel pulled within 21-24 after Stevin Smith's triple. Barcelona saw 24-second possessions expire with no time to forge plays, even though Fucka hit the jumper for 21-26 to give his team some air. Petrov nailed 2 free throws for 23-26, but the hosts never quite caught Barca, either. Bodiroga and Roberto Dueñas scored now to restore a 23-30 advantage. Petrov sank one of the few long-range shots for his team in the first half, but the Spaniards increased their lead again to 25-33. Now, Jasikevicius returned to score 5 consecutive points to preserve a 30-38 lead with a minute to go to the break. In the last seconds, however, an easyy jumper by Gulyas set the scoreboard at a tight 32-38 for the intermission.
Upon resumptions, the game tempo decreased as neither team showed fluency in offense. Jasikevicius did his own thing though, and hit his fourth triple of 5 attempts. That started a 0-7 Barca run that pushed the guests in front by 34-45. Andre Owens started his own run then for Asvel, however, scoring 2 three-pointers among 8 straight points that pulled the hosts within 42-49. But he found heavy opposition in Bodiroga who quietly raised his point total to 15. The defenses were not as organized as in the first half, especially on Asvel's side. Petrov bagged a couple long-range shots, but Fucka started to be important in scoring terms for Barca, especially from the free throw line. A pair of his foul shots were needed, in fact, to help Barca hold onto a 50-55 edge after 30 minutes.
The last quarter was the confirmation of Barca's superiority and Fucka emerged as the decisive player in those minutes. With his good defense and valuable points, he sparked a 0-9 run for the guests to start the quarter. Rodrigo De la Fuente's triple was decisive in putting the lead at 50-62, and when Fucka added another basket, the game went out of Asvel's reach. Smith hit Asvel's first points of the quarter for 52-64. But even when Owens sank a couple shots from downtown, Asvel just didn't get close. Fucka made sure of that, culminating his great performance with a triple for Barca's maximum lead, 54-69. Evtimov was far from surrendering though, and his 4 straight points later pulled Asvel within 64-70. But that was already foul-giving time, and at the line, Bodiroga was perect in 4 attempts for a 64-75 lead. That took the wind out of the home team and made sure that Barca controlled its own destiny still in its push to make the Final Four in its own city in early May.
Thursday, March 27, 2003