Regal FC Barcelona stayed undefeated in Group A by beating Zalgiris 70-77 in front of a sellout crowd in Kaunas, Lithuania on Thursday night. Barcelona keeps tying with Montepaschi Siena atop the Group A standings, each with a 3-0 record. Meanwhile, Zalgiris dropped to 1-2 and will try to register its first road win against Cibona next Wednesday. Pete Mickeal paced the winners with 22 points. Terence Morris added 13 while Jaka Lakovic and Erazem Lorbek each had 11 for Barcelona. Mirza Begic led Zalgiris with 20 points. Marcus Brown added 17, Mantas Kalnietis had 12 while Travis Watson posted a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds for the hosts. Barcelona had troubles to stop Brown in the opening minutes. He joined forces with Begic to give Zalgiris a 18-14 edge late in the first quarter. Mickeal and Lakovic stepped up to give Barcelona a 23-28 lead soon after that. An unstoppable Brown and a buzzer-beating triple by Tadas Klimavicius got Zalgiris within 38-41 at halftime. Roger Grimau, Mickeal - 10 points in the third quarter - and Morris helped Barcelona to get a 53-67 margin with 8 minutes to go. Begic, Brown and Kalnietis got Zalgiris within 68-70 but Lorbek stepped up in crunch time to win it for Barcelona.
Barcelona head coach Xavi Pascual opted to place team captain Grimau in the starting lineup. Zalgiris tried to make Brown play one-on-one against him in the early going and he followed a floating jumper with free throws for a 4-2 lead. Lorbek scored down low while Mickeal added a turnaround jumper for a 6-6 tie. Watson shined with a backdoor layup and even when Victor Sada came off the bench to guard Brown, he immediately sank a turnaround jumper. Morris quickly answered from downtown to tie it at 10-10. Begic took over with a two-handed dunk and Kalnietis added an electric driving layup to put the hosts back ahead, 14-12. Zalgiris kept running its offense through Brown, that fed Begic for another dunk and found Watson to give the hosts a 18-14 edge. Morris found space for an uncontested layup but Barcelona kept missing open shots. Marty Pocius buried a three-pointer but Barcelona managed to stop Brown with Ricky Rubio guarding him. Lakovic nailed a seven-meter while a put-back layup by Morris gave Barcelona its first lead, 21-23, at the end of the first quarter.
Begic sank free throws right at the start of the second quarter but Sada erased them with a six-meter shot. Barcelona improved its defense with Mickeal and Fran Vazquez together on court while a big triple by Lakovic soon made it a five-point game, 23-28. Begic and Vazquez traded dunks but Kalnietis struck from downtown to get the crowd involved at 28-30. The game turned into a physical battle and Zalgiris failed to get Brown involved now. Barcelona used twin point guards - Rubio and Sada - to improve its ball circulation and be all over the place in defense. Rubio fed Morris for a reverse layup and Mickeal added a power basket off a Zalgiris timeout to give Barcelona a 28-34 lead. Watson stepped up with a put-back layup that Mickeal bettered with a three-point play. Kalnietis and Brown rescued the hosts with free throws but a jump hook by Lorbek silenced the crowd at 34-39. More foul shots by Brown and Lakovic, as well as a buzzer-beating corner triple by Klimavicius, fixed the halftime score at 38-41.
Vazquez sank a five-meter jumper immediately after the break, as Zalgiris struggled to find Watson and Begic down low. A wide open three-pointer by Grimau and a big basket in the low post by an unstoppable Mickeal made it a double-digit game, 38-48, making Zalgiris call timeout. Watson tried to change things with a wild dunk in traffic that Brown followed with a backdoor layup to bring the hosts back to life, 42-48. Begic capped a 6-0 run with a baseline jumper, as Zalgiris managed to put the ball inside in each and every offense now. Mickeal sank a jumper but a power dunk by Klimavicius and a big three-pointer by Kalnietis got Zalgiris as close as 49-52. Grimau buried his second triple while free throws by an unstoppable Mickeal gave the guests some fresh air at 49-57. Begic rescued Zalgiris with a second-chance layup that Lorbek matched with a put-back dunk. Watson scored in penetration but free throws by Mickeal and a buzzer-beating layup by Morris made Barcelona restore a double-digit lead, 53-63, after 30 minutes.
Lorbek scored in the low post early in the fourth quarter while Morris added a put-back dunk in transition to make it a 14-point game, 53-67. Zalgiris needed a quick comeback to keep its options in this game and Begic tried to ignite it with 6 unanswered points - all in the low post against Vazquez. Barcelona could not find its scoring rhythm and called a much-needed timeout to fix its offense. Lakovic took over with his trademark step-back triple to keep Barcelona out of trouble, 59-70, with under 6 minutes left. Brown shined with consecutive catch-and-shoot three-pointers that brought Zalgiris back to life, 65-70. Begic became a dominant force in defense with two critical blocks on Grimau and Mickeal while Kalnietis struck from downtown to make it a two-point game, 68-70, with 2:30 to go. Lorbek made 1-of-2 free throws and soon added a reverse layup to seal the outcome, 68-73, with 1:17 remaining. Free throws by Rubio allowed Barcelona to celebrate an important road win.
Thursday, November 5, 2009