It took FC Barcelona six trips to Ljubljana to take its first win in Union Olimpija's home. With five players scoring in double digits, led by Dejan Bodiroga with 15 points, the Euroleague defending champs defeated the hosts by 63-69. For Barca, still unbeaten at 4-0, Rodrigo de la Fuente added 13 points, Patrick Femerling and Vlatko Ilievski, the latter coming back home to play the team he left last summer, added 12 apiece and Gregor Fucka nailed 11. Union Olimpija, whose second home loss in a row saw its record drop to 2-2, had three players score in double digits: Vladimer Boisa had 18, Marino Bazdaric added 14 and Marko Maravic posted 13.
The game was only balanced in the first 3 minutes, 4-4, and exactly 60 seconds after that, the guests turned the game inside out with a 4-13 run that forced Olimpija coach Saso Filipovski's first timeout. If Filipovski wasn't able to warn his players about the dangers of Barca during the week, needless to say that he could so little in 60 seconds. So the guests just kept rolling. With his second triple, De la Fuente put the guests up 6-18 in minute 7, and only thanks to some good outside shots did Olimpija cut the deficit a little, to 13-20, after 10 minutes.
The crowd that packed the Tivoli Arena roared when Bazdaric scored for 15-20 to open the second quarter, but the stands went silent again soon as Barca pulled away to 15-25. While Barcelona coach Svetislav Pesic utilized his rotations to rest his starters, Filipovski desperately searched a player on fire in his team as neither Bazdaric nor Vladimer Boisa nor Roberts Stelmahers could break the Catalan defense. In minute 15, after running out of players and with Dzenan Rahimic out due to injury, he chose Darrell Tucker, who until now had seen few minutes on court. Filipovski didn't have any answers, and the repertoire of the guests on offense made things easy for Barca. Olimpija missed 12 triples (2 of 14) and ended the first 20 minutes down 28-37.
If the nine-point deficit looked like a semi-open door for the hosts after resumption, Ilievski's triple shut it close in minute 24, 31-44. Even though the Slovenians kept up their fighting reputation and cut the deficit down to 5 points, 43-48, after 2 straight triples by Bazdaric, the win of Barcelona was never threatened. Fucka, Bodiroga and Ilievski were the guarantee for success. With 6 minutes to go, Barcelona had again an easy lead of 46-56. Again, Olimpija cut that to half, 51-56, and even came within 3 points, 60-63, with less than 3 minutes to play. Olimpija had two offensive plays in its hands to make it closer, but nothing came of either, and with 75 seconds left, Bodiroga and Fucka wouldn't let the win slip from the champs' hands.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Ziga Bojc, Ljubljana