Benetton Treviso made a little magic on Wednesday when it roared back from 18 points down just before halftime to bulldoze into the quarterfinals with a 99-82 home victory over Barcelona that swept their best-of-three series 2-0. There were really two games in one in Treviso on Wednesday night, the first 18 minutes, after which Barcelona led 48-30; and the next 22 minutes, which Benetton won by the unbelievable margin of 69-34.
"This victory has come because of the heart and character of my players," Benetton coach Luigi Bucchi said. "It has nothing to do with any tactics on my part."
Barcelona had looked for all the world like team bent on revenge as it opened up an early double-digit lead and then stoked it to 48-32 with two minutes left in the second quarter. The comeback might have been a lot harder on Benetton had it not been for Jorge Garbajosa, a Spaniard, scoring 7 points in the final 2 minutes of the first half for Benetton, cutting the deficit to 11. Garbajosa stole the ball from Navarro and launched a three-point swish from just over halfcourt to end the half with Barcelona in front 50-39.
"Barcelona played a great first half, scored 50 points and put us in a difficult situation" said Bucchi, "but the triple by Garbajosa en the finals seconds from half court changed the destiny of the game."
Even then, however, hardly anybody could imagine what would happen in the second half. Another outburst from Marcus Brown, aided this time by Petar Naumoski and Ricardo Pittis, literally turned the game around in the third quarter and put Benetton in charge 67-56 heading into the final 10 minutes. Zoran Savic rose up to score the points to cut the lead to 70-66 with seven minutes remaining, but the rest of Barcelona players were already in shellshock. Before the second half was over, Benetton amassed 60 points on offense to just 32 for Barcelona, a 28-point difference that had to be seen to be believed.
"We've suffered a great disappoinment and now each one can come to his own conclusions" Barcelona coach Aito Garcia said. "It's not the moment to qualify or analyze the circumstances, but to get ready for what's left of our season. We lost the game in the third quarter, after an injury to (point guard Sarunas) Jasikevicius and six fouls against us while none was called against Benetton. The same thing happened to us as so many other times. We didn't know how to take care of the lead, and after a missed dunk, we slowed down a lot. We repeated lots of errors and that cost us a lot."
Efthimios Rentzias The evidence of the team effort is in the point dispersal among the Benetton starters. Naumoski led with 26, Pittis added 18, MBrown 17, Garbajosa and center Marcelo Nicola 15 each. For Barcelona, center Efthimios Rentzias was the high man with 21 and forward Rodrigo De la Fuente added 13, but there was a conspicuous lack of offense from guards Juan Carlos Navarro and Sarunas Jasikevicius, who put up a total of 20 points between them in what turned out to be a scoring contest.
Wednesday, February 7, 2001