AXA FC Barcelona knocked off the next-to-last undefeated team in the Euroleague and improved its Group C standing when it defeated archrival Real Madrid 73-62 at home on Thursday. Barcelona survived a back-and-forth battle that served the Spanish super-derby tradition well and now ties for third place in Group C with a 3-2 record. Meanwhile, Real Madrid dropped to 4-1 and is one win behind Panathinaikos, the only undefeated team left in the competition. Jaka Lakovic led the winners with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Gianluca Basile added 13 while Alex Acker had 7 critical points in the fourth quarter, when Madrid had rallied from a 19-point deficit to get a 56-59 edge. Felipe Reyes had 16 points for Real Madrid while Louis Bullock added 14. Lakovic and an unstoppable Basile led Barcelona to a 34-15 lead midway through the second quarter. A 2-3 zone defense allowed Madrid to get back on track, as Bullock, Reyes and a three-pointer by Kerem Tunceri gave Madrid a 56-59 lead with 7 minutes to go. It didn't last long, as Lakovic and Acker combined for 11 points in a 15-0 run that sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Real Madrid coach Joan Plaza placed Sergio Llull in the starting lineup to guard Lakovic. Lazaros Papadopoulos opened the scoring with a hook shot that Lakovic matched with a driving layup. Llull scored in a backdoor pass, but Barcelona soon improved its defense. Madrid picked up 3 quick fouls, while Lakovic fed Marconato and Vazquez for consecutive dunks. Ilyasova dunked it off a steal in an 11-0 run that Lakovic capped with a layup, good for a 13-4 Barcelona lead. Bullock stepped up with a layup-plus-foul but Barcelona kept rolling. Vazquez dunked it again, Lakovic fed Jordi Trias for an easy layup while Basile buried a seven-meter bomb that sent the crowd to their feet, 22-7. Raul Lopez tried to change things with a three-pointer and Reyes drew consecutive fouls in the paint, but they only got Madrid within 22-13. Madrid had improved its defense now but Trias stepped up with a follow-up layup, good for a double-digit Barcelona lead, 24-13, after 10 minutes.
Barcelona opted to look for its big men inside early in the second quarter. Pepe Sanchez shined with a driving layup but Charles Smith finished a second-chance Madrid offense with a five-meter jumper. Roger Grimau and Michel Morandais quickly answered with fast break layups to restore a 30-15 Barcelona lead. Mario Kasun shined with a power layup, making Madrid call timeout at 32-15. The guests switched to a 2-3 zone defense but Trias capped a 8-0 run with another layup. Axel Hervelle scored inside but Kasun matched that with free throws. Bullock came off the bench and immediately followed one from downtown with free throws to give Madrid some hope at 36-21. Basile kept Barcelona's momentum going with a wild three-point play, as Bullock tried to change things with more foul shots while Venson Hamilton added a jump hook. Lakovic took over with a driving basket while Basile provided a highlight with a reverse layup. Reyes stepped up with back-to-back baskets and Lopez added free throws but once again Basile slashed to the rim for another three-point play and a 48-31 Barcelona margin. Reyes hit a power layup while Hervelle beat the buzzer with a jump hook to get Madrid within 48-36 at halftime.
Alex Mumbru fueled the Madrid comeback with a quick jumper right after the break, as Barcelona kept struggling to score. The guests, however, tried to get Papadopoulos involved without much success. Basile fired in his trademark fallaway jumper but Hervelle beat the buzzer with an incredible six-meter fallaway shot. Denis Marconato hit a mid-range jumper that Bullock matched with a fast break basket. Madrid felt more and more confident with its zone defense while an acrobatic layup by Lopez got the guests even closer, 52-44. Barcelona called a much-needed timeout and returned to the floor with much more aggressivity. Even with that, Papadopoulos scored in the low post to make it a six-point game, 52-46. Trias stepped up with a layup but Papadopoulos fed Reyes for a three-point play, as all Barcelona fans at Palau Blaugrana had already started to wonder. Barcelona kept taking off-target shots, while Mumbru hit a jump hook that got the guests within striking distance, 54-51, at the end of the third quarter.
Mumbru scored off a midcourt steal to get Madrid even closer, 54-53, at the start of the fourth quarter, as the game turned into a thriller. Acker stepped up with a driving layup but Reyes took over with an incredible put-back basket. An unsportsmanlike foul on Kasun allowed Reyes to tie the game, 56-56. A three-pointer by Tunceri soon completed the guests' comeback, 56-59, with 7 minutes to go. Acker kept pacing Barcelona with a baseline jumper while Lakovic fired in a big triple to put Barcelona back ahead, 61-59. Lakovic set the crowd on fire with another three-pointer while Acker also hit one from downtown to cap an 11-0 run that put Barcelona out of trouble, 67-59, with 4 minutes remaining. Marconato buried his trademark jumper, making Madrid call timeout at 69-59. It was do-or-die time for the guests and Barcelona opted to use long possessions to stay out of trouble. Madrid had lost control, while Trias scored inside to cap a game-breaking 15-0 run that sealed the outcome, 71-59. Bullock buried one from downtown but it was too little, too late for Madrid, as all Barcelona fans were already celebrating a big win.
Thursday, November 22, 2007