Nachbar, Tomic lead Barcelona past Unicaja
FC Barcelona remained undefeated in Top 16 Group F and came a step closer to clinching first place by downing Unicaja Malaga 61-77 on the road in front of 10,600 fans on Friday. Barcelona improved to 11-0 and will seal first place with its next win - or the next loss by EA7 Emporio Armani Milan. Unicaja dropped to 5-6 and is tied for fourth place. Bostjan Nachbar paced the winners with 16 points. Ante Tomic and Erazem Lorbek each scored 12 for Barcelona. Tomic added 10 rebounds for a double-double. Earl Calloway led Unicaja with 15 points. Mindaugas Kuzminskas added 13 while Vladimir Stimac had 11 for the hosts. Juan Carlos Navarro led an early 0-8 run, which allowed Barcelona to keep a 17-21 lead after 10 minutes. Barcelona kept excelling on defense and a dunk by Kostas Papanikolaou made it a double-digit game. Calloway and Kuzminskas brought Unicaja within 31-37 at halftime. An outstanding Marcelinho Huertas struck twice from downtown in a 0-8 run that gave Barcelona a 31-45 margin right after the break. Fran Vazquez and Kuzminskas rescued Unicaja, leading a 13-2 run that brought the hosts within 44-47 late in the third quarter. But Barcelona improved its defense, boosted its margin to 47-55 at the end of the third quarter and then again to 47-65 behind an unstoppable Nachbar to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer.
First quarter: Early 0-8 run puts Barcelona ahead
Erazem Lorbek got Barcelona going with a close basket, which Earl Calloway bettered with a three-pointer for a 3-2 Unicaja lead. Kostas Papanikolaou answered from downtown and Juan Carlos Navarro followed a fast break layup with a corner triple for a 3-10 Barcelona edge, after a 0-8 run. Mindaugas Kuzminskas hit 3 free throws, before Marcelinho Huertas shined with a running basket. Another three-pointer by Calloway brought Unicaja within 9-12. Ante Tomic nailed a turnaround jumper off a timeout, but Calloway buried his trademark stop-and-pop triple. Tomic kept pushing Barcelona with back-to-back layups. Zoran Dragic split foul shots, as Unicaja tried to open the floor with Carlos Suarez at power forward. Alex Abrines swished a triple before a layup by Vladimir Stimac - Unicaja's first two-pointer - kept the hosts within 6. Another close basket by Stimac fixed the score at 17-21 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Defense keeps the guests on top
Joey Dorsey fed Bostjan Nachbar for a two-handed dunk early in the second quarter. Stimac beat the shot clock buzzer with a layup and a three-pointer by Txemi Urtasun ignited the crowd at 22-23. Barcelona struggled to score without Huertas and Navarro on court. Tomic stepped up with a jump hook and a block on Stimac which allowed Abrines to give Barcelona some fresh air at 22-27. Stimac took over with a dunk that Tomic erased with a layup for a 24-29 score. Unicaja kept picking up turnovers and free throws by Jacob Pullen made it an eight-point game, 24-32. A wild fast break dunk by Papanikolaou soon gave Barcelona its first double-digit lead, 24-34, after a 0-7 run. Unicaja called timeout and Calloway hit a five-meter jumper but Lorbek answered from downtown. Kuzminskas followed a triple with a layup to bring Unicaja closer, 31-37, as both teams returned to the locker rooms.
Third quarter: Unicaja rallies, Barcelona steps up
Huertas buried an off-balance three-pointer immediately after the break, as the guests dominated the boards through Tomic, whose put-back basket – his fourth rebound in 90 seconds – gave Barcelona a 31-42 lead. Another triple by Huertas forced Unicaja to call timeout at 31-45. Vazquez stepped up with a dunk and the guests started to miss open shots. Meanwhile, Dragic tried to change things with a backdoor layup and a fast break basket and Barcelona called timeout at 37-45. Kuzminskas ignited the crowd with a dunk and bettered Nachbar's free throws with a three-pointer that brought Unicaja back to life at 42-47. Vazquez swished a jumper, but Papanikolaou answered with a fast break layup and Nachbar followed a six-meter jumper with an easy basket that saw the hosts call timeout at 44-53. Nachbar remained on fire with another fast break basket, but a layup-plus-foul by Stimac kept Unicaja within 47-55 at halftime.
Fourth quarter: Barcelona seals it early, gets big win
Nachbar struck from downtown early in the fourth quarter and soon added another three-pointer that broke the game open, 47-61. Lorbek scored twice around the basket, forcing Coach Joan Plaza to call a much-needed timeout at 47-65. Unicaja was held scoreless for almost four minutes until Domantas Sabonis stepped up with a put-back basket. Brad Oleson did better with a three-pointer that sealed the outcome, 49-68, with less than six minutes left. After Calloway downed a mid-range jumper, Lorbek struck from downtown and Oleson made it a 21-point game. Urtasun and Sabonis tried to change things for Unicaja, but Dorsey silenced the crowd with a huge slam and by the time Abrines scored again, everything was said and done.
Friday, March 21, 2014