AXA FC Barcelona improved to 6-2 in Group C and took a major step to reach the Top 16 by thrashing Partizan Igokea 95-69 at home on Thursday night. Barcelona ties with archrivals Real Madrid for the second spot in Group C, just one win away from the overall leader Panathinaikos, first at 7-1. Meanwhile, Partizan dropped to 3-5 and ties with Chorale Roanne for the decisive fifth spot in Group C. Both teams face each other in Belgrade, Serbia next week. Roger Grimau paced the winners with 19 points on 4-for-5 two-pointers, 2-for-3 triples and 5-for-5 free throws. Gianluca Basile and Fran Vazquez each added 15 points, Jaka Lakovic had 14 while Mario Kasun got 13 for Barcelona. Uros Tripkovic had 16 points for Partizan while Novica Velickovic added 13 for the guests, whose superstar Nikola Pekovic was limited to 7 points due to severe foul troubles. Pekovic picked up 2 quick fouls and Barcelona got the lead for good with a fluid offense in which Kasun played a major role. Barcelona led 28-14 after 10 minutes and even when Tripkovic singlehandedly brought Partizan within 36-30, Basile and Grimau helped the hosts to boost their margin to 47-36 at halftime. An unstoppable Grimau and a 10-meter bomb by Basile gave Barcelona a 65-51 after 30 minutes and Partizan did not recover in the fourth quarter.
Milt Palacio got Partizan going with a fallaway jumper that Trias matched with an uncontested dunk, as both teams tried to adjust their offenses in the early going. Barcelona missed 5 consecutive shots until Kasun fed Lakovic for a backdoor layup, as Partizan struggled to find easy shots. Kasun shined with a jump hook and soon added a put-back dunk for a 8-2 Barcelona lead after 4 minutes. Tripkovic fired in a fadeaway jumper but Pekovic soon picked up his second foul. Kasun made a free throw and by the time Basile buried a five-meter shot, Barcelona has an 11-4 lead. Dusan Kecman found his first point with a bomb from downtown but a red hot Kasun dunked in transition and added the free throw that came with it. Partizan kept finding it hard to score with Pekovic on the bench now. Grimau beat the guests' zone defense with a corner triple to boost Barcelona's lead to double digits, 17-7. Velickovic made free throws but Grimau and Lakovic kept the hosts way ahead, 21-11. Grimau stroke again from downtown but Dejan Borovnjak matched with a layup-plus-foul. Vazquez took over with back-to-back monster dunks for a 28-14 Barcelona lead after 10 minutes.
Kasun kept pacing Barcelona with another close basket but Tripkovic answered from downtown to give Partizan some hope at 30-17. It didn't last long, however, as Ersan Ilyasova stepped up with a long two-pointer and even when Velickovic answered in the other end, Kasun had a key three-point play on Pekovic's third foul. Velickovic kept pacing Partizan with a triple and Cedomir Vitkovac added a driving layup - and the free throw that came with it for a 35-25 Partizan deficit. Palacio also scored in a 1-11 run that Milenko Tepic capped with a bomb from downtown to make it a six-point game, 36-30. Barcelona had struggled against the guests' zone defense until Basile buried a seven-meter triple. Grimau added free throws while Tripkovic sank his second three-pointer. Lakovic immediately answered from downtown for a 44-33 Barcelona margin. Basile made a free throw and Grimau added a big basket but Tripkovic - who else? - fired in another triple to fix the halftime score at 47-36. Partizan committed 10 first-half turnover against Barcelona's 4.
Slavko Vranes found his first points on a put-back basket that Alex Acker erased with a baseline jumper. Partizan, still without Pekovic, managed to stay in the game, as Velickovic hit a free throw and Basile added a fallaway jumper. Basile hit a big three-pointer and soon added a reverse layup to keep the hosts out of trouble, 53-41. Lakovic finished a four-chance Barcelona offense with a six-meter shot to make Partizan call a much-needed timeout at 55-42. Kecman stepped up with a driving layup and Tripkovic copued him soon after that to get Partizan within 55-47. Barcelona did not panic, however, as Grimau shined with an electric driving layup in Pekovic's fourth foul. Borovnjak tried to change things with free throws but Barcelona had already found answers to the guests' zone defense. Marconato scored inside and soon added a jumper for a 62-51 lead. The guests kept trying outside shots without much success, while Basile beat the buzzer with a 10-meter bomb that boosted the hosts' margin to 65-51 after 30 minutes.
Pekovic had his first points right at the start of the fourth quarter but Vazquez provided a highlight with a power dunk and soon added free throws for a 69-53 Barcelona lead. Partizan needed a major comeback now and Pekovic tried to ignit one with free throws, but Barcelona had already slowed down its offense with Pepe Sanchez running the show. Basile buried an unbelievable shot and Grimau shined again with a huge driving basket. Vazquez had a high-flying block against Pekovic but Palacio still got Partizan within 73-58 with 7 minutes to go. Barcelona kept following its game plan, as an unstoppable Grimau made free throws while Sanchez followed a three-point play with more foul shots to break the game for good, 80-60. Everything was said and done up to that point, as Barcelona keeps fighting to win Group C and even when Pekovic kept scoring, Partizan has a big showdown against Roanne next week.
Thursday, December 13, 2007