Defending champs Barcelona survived a tough trip to Siena by knocking off Montepaschi 68-73 at the end of a hotly-contested game in Group F on Thursday. Barca starts the new group tied with Panathinaikos after one game, while Montepaschi sits sits beside Benetton with an 0-1 record. Dejan Bodiroga turned it on when it counted and was the leading scorer with 23 points, while Juan Carlos Navarro nailed 4 of 5 triples on his way to 18 points for the winners. Vlado Ilievski also finished with 12 points, making both triples he attempted, for Barcelona. Vrbica Stefanov and Roberto Chiacig each scored 11 points for Montepaschi, while Michalis Kakiouzis had 10 and Bootsy Thornton 9.
Montepaschi went scoreless through the first few minutes and Barcelona took a seven-point lead early on after a slam by Patrick Femerling and its domination on the boards. Montepaschi came back with 2 straight triples from David Vanterpool and Stefanov to pull within 10-11. Neither team was able to get an edge, as the defense dominated on both ends of the court. In the final possession, Barcelona coach Svetislav Pesic called for the ball to go to the experienced hands of Bodiroga, who dribbled down the clock before nailing a mid-range jumper to give Barca a 10-13 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams looked inside to start the second quarter. Montepaschi crept to 13-15 after a three-point play by Chiacig. Navarro answered for Barcelona and the guests took a five-point lead. Bodiroga got going offensively and quickly Barcelona had a 21-29 lead. Montepaschi reacted with a triple from Kakiouzis and a layup by Stefanov, but the visitors held their lead at 7 points. Both sides knocked down triples, but Bootsy Thornton's 3 points in a row pulled Montepaschi to within 32-37. Nacho Rodriguez finished a fastbreak with a reverse lay-in, leaving 13 seconds on the clock for Montepaschi, but after Vanterpool's buzzer-beater bounded out, Barca had a 32-39 edge at the half.
To start the second half, Thornton ignited the fast break and found Kakiouzis for an easy basket, but Anderson Varejao immediately hit a jumper to keep Barca ahead by 7 points. The teams traded baskets until Barca went on an 0-4 run that gave the guests their biggest lead of the game, 37-48. Thornton led Montepaschi back with a triple and free throw, then Vanterpool and David Andersen scored to pull Montepaschi to within 4 points. Navarro had the answer for Barcelona, drilling an open three-pointer, but the quarter closed after Dusan Vukcevic matched it with a triple that made the score 47-51.
Mindaugas Zukauskas opening the final stanza with triple that cut Montepaschi's deficit to just one point. Bodiroga responded this time for the guests, but moments later Montepaschi grabbed the lead, 55-54, after a fastbreak bucket from Vanterpool. The game went back and forth, but Barca took back the lead after Navarro nailed another triple and Roberto Dueñas scored on an offensive rebound to make the score 58-62. Bodiroga scored from the line, but Thornton pulled Montepaschi to within 62-66 after beating the 24-second shot clock. Bodiroga and Navarro each scored again. In the final minute, with the game still undecided, it was Navarro who iced the victory for Barcelona with a clutch triple, his fourth of the game. The final score was 68-73 after Stefanov scored a layup as time expired.
Thursday, March 4, 2004