Barcelona had to wait until the last seconds, but finally took its fifth straight win in the Group B of the Euroleague 90-81 against Opel Skyliners of Frankfurt, who played a very good basketball and had a chance to win until the last minute. The victory boosted Barcelona (6-2) into a first-place tie with Kinder Bolonga, a loser earlier in the evening at Zalgiris Kaunas. The Skylinter fell to 5-3, good for a third-place tie with Ulker Istanbul and Union Olimpija. "It was a very good result for us, because now we are up in the standings and being more confident. But it was very difficult", said Lithuanian Arturas Karnisovas, one of the key players for Barcelona, with 20 points. Chad Austin of Opel was the best scorer of the game with 28 points.
Sarunas Jasikevicius opened the scoring and Barcelona converted its first six two-points shots (12-8), before getting a maximum lead of eight points (17-9). But Skyliners answered from the three-point arc, especillay with Austin (3 for 3 in the first quarter). When Roberto Dueñas was called to the bench, Barcelona's defense suffered and the third three-pointer from Austin gave the German side its first lead at 19-21, before the quarter ended tied, 21-21.
Austin extended the lead for Opel Skyliners (21-25) with 13 points in 11 minutes, without a miss yet. For some time Pascal Roller, the visiting playmaker, controlled the tempo of the game in front of some bad shot selection from the home side. But Barcelona reacted through the rebounding from Efthimios Rentzias and some spectacular plays from Alain Digbeu, including one alleey-oop from Jasikevicius and a three-pointer eight meters far from the basket (40-36). Virginius Stanescu took his fourth personal foul late in the quarter, but Open was still within 40-38 at the half.
In the third period Barcelona extended its lead to seven points (47-40) due to a good scoring effort from Karnisovas (7 points in 3 minutes) and to nine (51-42) after two free throws from Dueñas. But Opel Skyliners never gave up and came back in a brilliant mood when Roller put in its third and fourth threes (4 out of 6) and Austin his fifth (5 out of 6) to close this quarter down only by 66-65.
Barcelona quickly managed to extend its lead to 10 points (77-67) with 6:50 to go and again (83-73) with only 4:30 to play. But when the hosts missed four possesions in a row, Skyliners made its last effort to cut that lead, down to only two points, 83-81, with 1:53 to play after a Marcus Goree dunk. Goree then missed a basket to equalise, however, and Digbeu made the crucial three-pointer with 1:01 on the cclock, leaving it to Jasikevicius and Karnisovas to seal the home win at the free throw line.
Thursday, December 13, 2001
Juan Antonio Casanova, Barcelona