Regal FC Barcelona took a critical step to win Group B and become a top-seeded team in the upcoming Top 16 Draw by downing Montepaschi Siena 87-61 at home on Wednesday night. Barcelona is now the exclusive leader in Group B with a 7-1 record, while Montepaschi Siena ties with Panathinaikos for second place at 6-2. Since Barcelona has the tie-break advantage against both teams, added to the fact that Montepaschi and Panathinaikos face each other in Week 9, Barcelona will need just one more win to clinch first place in this group. Juan Carlos Navarro paced the winners with 17 points despite being questionable for this game. Daniel Santiago added 14, Gianluca Basile had 13 while Lubos Barton and David Andersen each got 10 for Barcelona. Henry Domercant had 13 points for Montepaschi but nobody else in his team scored in double digits. Barcelona made Montepaschi go scoreless in the opening 7 minutes, in which Santiago had 8 points in a 15-0 opening run. Andersen and Navarro boosted the hosts' margin to 25-3, a new defensive record for less points allowed in the first quarter in a Euroleague game since the competition started in 2000. Andersen and Barton kept pacing Barcelona to make the hosts keep a 44-24 halftime margin. Nothing changed after the break, as Barcelona cruised to an important home win.
Both teams struggled to score in the opening 2 minutes until Santiago stepped up with a jump hook and a alleyoop dunk for a 4-0 margin. Montepaschi did not succeed on trying to get Romain Sato and Benjamin Eze while the hosts keep feeding Santiago down low. He shined with a power layup for a 6-0 run. Montepaschi had been scoreless for 4 minutes and called a much-needed timeout. Victor Sada got the crowd involved with an alleyoop layup, Navarro fired in a corner three-pointer while Barton dunked it for a 13-0 lead. Santiago capped a 15-0 opening run with a layup, as Darjus Lavrinovic struck from downtown to finally get Montepaschi going. Ersan Ilyasova answered from downtown to restore a 15-point Barcelona lead, 18-3. Navarro sank free throws while Basile provided a highlight with a 10-meter bomb to make it a 20-point game, 23-3. Andersen sank a four-meter jumper to fix the score at 25-3 after 10 minutes.
Domercant sank free throws right at the start of the season quarter while Basile and Rimantas Kaukenas traded easy baskets for a 29-7 score. Domercant paced Montepaschi with more foul shots as the guests slowly improved their offense through a more active Terrell McIntyre and without Sada on court. Andersen stepped up with a layup, however, while free throws by Navarro kept Barcelona way ahead, 34-11. Montepaschi kept missing open shots and even when Lavrinovic scored inside, Andersen nailed a big triple for a 37-13 score. Lavrinovic tried to change things with free throws but Barcelona dominated the game with its outstanding defense, trying to double-team Kaukenas, the guests' occasional point guard with McIntyre resting on the bench. Kaukenas stepped up with a driving layup that Vazquez matched with a dunk. Barton nailed a triple but a power layup by Eze and a three-pointer by Romain Sato got Montepaschi within 44-24 at halftime.
Domercant tried to ignite the guests' comeback with a driving layup right after the break but Navarro quickly struck from beyond the arc. McIntyre answered from downtown - his first points tonight - but an outstanding Navarro scored off a steal to keep Barcelona out of trouble, 50-29. Domercant buried a six-meter shot but Navarro - who else? - matched it with free throws and nailed a big triple. Shaun Stonerook dunked it coming off the baseline but Barton gave Barcelona a 27-point lead, 60-33. Montepaschi finally found its go-to guy in McIntyre, who made free throws, fed Kaukenas for a jumper and added a fast break layup for a 60-39 deficit. Andersen scored down low while Basile sank his trademark triple to restore a 65-39 margin. Santiago shined with a fast break layup while Jordi Trias capped a 9-0 run with free throws. Free throws by Lavrinovic while a buzzer-beating floating layup by Andre Barrett fixed the score at 71-41 after 30 minutes.
The outcome was clear already and Montepaschi tried at least to get the tie-break advantage, as it had beaten by 10 in Siena. Barcelona stayed focused, however, as Santiago scored in the middle and had a big block on Kaukenas. Domercant nailed a jumper but he didn't find much help around. Barcelona kept scoring fluently in transition and already started to run the game clock down. Basile fired in a seven-meter bomb for a 34-point margin, 77-43. Everything was said and done up to that point but Barcelona kept rolling. Basile sank an incredible jumper while Santiago scored again. Nothing changed in the last 5 minutes, as Barcelona ends 2008 as the Group B leader while Montepaschi must regroup for its decisive showdown against Panathinaikos right after the holiday break.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008