Thanks to an amazing final quarter, defending champs FC Barcelona remained undefeated with a 77-60 home win in Group A on Wednesday against Cibona VIP in a game that was much closer than the final score indicates. During the first 30 minutes, tough defenses meant that neither team would take charge and they would enter the last quarter tied. But in that decisive quarter, Barcelona (2-0) rolled over Cibona (1-1) with a 24-7 run against which the guests could do nothing. Juan Carlos Navarro led the hosts with 18 points, Anderson Varejao added 15, Vlado Ilievski nailed 12 and Dejan Bodiroga contributed 11. For Cibona, Andrija Zizic and Slaven Rimac put up 18 points apiece, while Scoonie Penn chipped in with 11.
The game started with early foul trouble for the guests as Jurica Golemac, after scoring Cibona's first 3 points, was called his second foul in minute 2. But it didn't seem a big problem for the Croatians as Slaven Rimac poured in 4 straight points for a 4-7 advantage. Golemac was soon called for his third foul and went to the bench as Barisa Krasic stepped on court. Soon a fastbreak layup by Roger Grimau put Barca ahead 8-7. The hosts tried to run after defensive rebounds until Rimac and Scoonie Penn hit back-to-back triples to give Cibona the lead back at 10-13. The guests' zone defense didn't make Barca shoot from outside, but didn't mean that the close shots went in, either. Krasic scored over Anderson Varejao in the last minute of the first quarter to force Barca coach Svetislav Pesic's timeout. And it worked. Varejao scored 4 straight points after good Barcelona defensive stands Juan Carlos Navarro added 2 with a bomb for an 18-15 scoreboard. Rimac, however, salvaged the quarter for Cibona and signalled a long night by hitting a triple on the buzzer to tie the score 18-18 after 10 minutes.
Andrija Zizic stepped on court to start scoring for the guests, but Barcelona started to move the ball wisely in the offensive end, and after a steal by Nacho Rodriguez-to- Varejao alley-oop, Barca looked comfortable, ahead 27-22. Varejao scored his 10th point soon and the defending champions soared on defense. It looked like Cibona had lost its direction, but Matej Mamic hit for three to save the situation, at least for a while. It took Cibona three more minutes to score again as Barcelona looked in control. When Zizic put back his own offensive rebound the guests were witin 33-30. Rimac was the absolute leader, but now Barca's boss, Bodiroga, returned after a break. Vlatko Ilievski hit from the arc for 36-30 with seconds to go, and a trademark penetration by Bodiroga left the score at 38-30 at halftime, as this time Rimac's triple attempt at the buzzer missed.
The second half started with 6 straight points for Cibona, 4 of them by Zizic, until Bodiroga broke the run from the line, 39-36. The Croatians were making their move based on good defense that yielded a couple turnovers that helped the guests get within 43-42. Despite 10 turnovers up to that point for Cibona, the guests dominated the situation, adding offensive rebounds and points from Zizic, whose 15th point tied it 44-44. The speed of Scoonie Penn helped turn a couple steals into fastbreak layups to put Cibona in front 48-51. Penn added yet basket but Gregor Fucka replied for Barca with a six-meter jumper to give life to Barca in the form of a 53-53 tie after 30 minutes.
Bodiroga scored the first basket of the last quarter in minute 32 from 5 meters and Ilievski added a free throw for a 56-53 start. Four more points by Fucka and a back no-look pass over his head from Bodiroga slammed by Varejao sealed a 9-0 run for the Spaniards that suddenly made it 62-53. Cibona was completely swept from the court thanks to a smothering defense by Barca. Another steal by Navarro allowed yet another dunk by Varejao which increased the run to 11-0. It was Rimac, from the 6.25 line, who broke the final 13-0 run of Barca, but Navarro broke into the zone defense of the Croatians to show everyone that the game belonged Barca. The remaining 5 minutes didn't change that fact. It looked like Barca could do no wrong even if they tried. An impossible triple by Navarro on the 24-second clock made it 75-57 with 1 minute and put the champs undefeated atop Group A.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Juan Antonio Casanova, Barcelona