FC Barcelona bench leads 72-83 victory at Zalgiris
FC Barcelona nearly guaranteed itself home-court advantage in the playoffs while also eliminating host Zalgiris Kaunas with a resourceful 72-83 road win to open Top 16 Round 12 on Wednesday. The victory was Barcelona's sixth in a row in Group E, raising its record to 9-3. If third-place Maccabi (7-2) loses away to group leader Real Madrid (9-2) on Friday, Barcelona will be sure to finish first or second and host three of five playoff games, if necessary. With two games to go, Zalgiris fell to 4-8. Even if Zalgiris finishes tied with Panathinaikos Athens (6-5) and ALBA Berlin (5-6), it would lose a three-way tiebreaker on points difference between them, and therefore cannot reach the playoffs. The difference in Wednesday's result could be attributed to Barcelona's depth, as its bench outscored that of Zalgiris 37-23. Alex Abrines, part of that effort, led the visitors with 16 points, hitting back-to-back fourth-quarter triples to put the game out of reach at 60-75. Tibor Pleiss added 14 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. Tomas Satoransky had 12 points, DeShaun Thomas and Ante Tomic 11 each for the winners. Zalgiris tried to ride scorer James Anderson on his birthday to the upset, but despite his 24 points in the first three quarters, could not get more from him. Arturas Milaknis followed with 12 points and Darius Songaila 10.
FIRST QUARTER: Barcelona subs take control late
Thomas nailed a baseline jumper on Barcelona's first possession, just as Robertas Javtokas downed a hook shot for the home team. Satoransky immediately fed Tomic to make it 2-4, but Anderson made a nice reverse to tie. Tomic tipped in his own miss next, while Anderson sliced through the Barcelona defense to make it 6-6. Will Cherry gave Zalgiris its first lead on a steal and layup, but Satoransky answered with a running one-hander at 8-8. Thomas returned with a lefty hook for a new Barcelona lead, but Milaknis drilled the game's first three-pointer to put Zalgiris in front 11-10. Arturas Gudaitis added to that lead with a put-back slam before Pleiss joined Barcelona's scoring column with a jump-hook. Satoransky and Milaknis then traded 2 free throws each at 15-14. Put-back baskets by both Pleiss and Thomas gave Barcelona a 15-18 lead, the biggest yet. But Brad Oleson made it bigger with a runner and when he lobbed to Pleiss for a dunk. Gudaitis got to the free throw line with no time left to make 1 of 2, but by then, Barcelona controlled the scoreboard, 16-22.
SECOND QUARTER: Pleiss, Abrines keep visitors on top
Abrines hit a jump shot to open the second quarter and Pleiss remained unstoppable inside with consecutive baskets that boosted Barcelona to a double-digit lead, 16-28. Vene Siim-Sander drilled a triple, ending almost 8 minutes with just free throws by Zalgiris, but Abrines matched him almost immediately and Maceij Lampe lifted to Barcelona's advantage to 21-33. Anderson added a triple to his just-made free throws as the Zalgiris defense tightened. After a timeout, Songaila scored inside and Anderson downed free throws to cut the difference to 28-33. Thomas ended Barcelona's drought with a jump-hook and Satoransky stopped to bury a transition three-pointer that lifted the lead to double-digits again, 28-38. Abrines finished a fastbreak next, though Anderson bettered it from the arc and added a free throw as the first half ended 33-42.
THIRD QUARTER: Anderson tries, but Barcelona takes off
Cherry re-started the Zalgiris offense with a runner to start the second half, but Bostjan Nachbar joined Barcelona's scoring column with a long two-pointer. Juan Carlos Navarro fed Satoransky on the break to raise the difference to 35-46 before Anderson hit his third triple to reduce the difference to single digits. Tomic returned then to answer with a three-point play, but Anderson was feeling it and launched from way beyond the arc this time. When it fell, the score was 41-49. A hook from Javtokas lowered the deficit further, but then he was called for an unsportsmanlike foul that resulted in 2 free throws from Tomic. Navarro reacted to getting his shot blocked by making his first shot of the night, from long range, at 43-54. Anderson's 2 of 3 free throws gave him 24 points in 25 minutes already, but Navarro was ready to respond with his second consecutive triple. When Abrines went to the line for 3 perfect free throws, Barcelona had its biggest lead so far, 45-60. Cherry hit another layup before Pleiss rejoined the visitors' offense to make it 47-63. Paulius Jankunas got free throws back for Zalgiris, then Edgaras Ulanovas finished a fastbreak and Songaila buried a jumper at 53-63. But a Zalgiris mistake on the last possession led to Doellman stealing and dunking on the third quarter buzzer, letting Barcelona lead 53-65 after 30 minutes.
FOURTH QUARTER: Abrines makes sure for Barcelona
Thomas restored Barcelona's 15-point advantage with a triple to open the fourth quarter. Between a pair of jumpers from Songaila, Lukas Lekavicius struck from the arc as Zalgiris got the difference to single digits again, 60-69. That's when Abrines said enough, flying off the same screen twice to rise and kill a pair of three-point swishes for a sudden 60-75 lead. Zalgiris got all 6 points back quickly, however: an unsportsmanlike foul on Tomic led to a free throw by Jankunas and a triple by Milaknis. Then a steal by Lekavicius and layup by Milaknis made it 66-75, forcing a Barcelona timeout. Doellman came up with a key tip-in next, and with under 4 minutes left, time was running out on Zalgiris. Milaknis drove for a layup at 68-77, but Navarro answered with a sweeping "la bomba" shot. When Doellman fed Tomic for a dunk, it was 68-81 with 1:30 to play. Barcelona was a step closer to home-court advantage in the playoffs, while Zalgiris was eliminated from the playoffs race.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015