Navarro sparks late rally as Barcelona tops Unicaja
In an all-Spanish showdown, FC Barcelona stayed undefeated in Group E by downing Unicaja Malaga 83-79 at home on Thursday. Barcelona improved to 4-0 with its 16th consecutive Top 16 victory, while Unicaja dropped to 2-2. Bostjan Nachbar paced the winners with 13 points, including a decisive three in the final minute, while Juan Carlos Navarro and Kostas Papanikolaou added 12 points apiece. Marcelinho Huertas contributed 10 points and 6 assists to the winning effort. Carlos Suarez made 5 of 9 three-pointers to lead Unicaja with 15 points and Nik Caner-Medley scored 12 in defeat for Unicaja, which was without Ryan Toolson and Fran Vazquez. Papanikolaou and Erazem Lorbek fueled an opening 11-2 run, but Caner-Medley and Suarez allowed Unicaja to get within 25-24 after 10 minutes. The game remained close into the third quarter, when Suarez struck three times from downtown and got plenty of help from Jayson Granger for a 61-68 Unicaja lead late in the third quarter. Navarro had 8 points in a mammoth 18-2 run that Nachbar capped with a triple for a 79-70 Barcelona lead en route to the win.
First quarter: Barca starts strong
Erazem Lorbek got Barcelona going with a jump hook and a three-pointer by Papanikolaou soon gave the hosts a 5-0 lead. Mindaugas Kuzminskas scored in the low post, but Papanikolaou erased it with a layup and back-to-back baskets by Lorbek forced head coach Joan Plaza to call timeout at 11-2. Kuzminskas sparked Unicaja with a put-back slam and a three-pointer, but Marcelinho Huertas answered from downtown to restore a 14-7 Barcelona edge. Caner-Medley hit a one-handed floater in the lane, which Papanikolaou matched with a wild reverse layup. Caner-Medley hit a triple. Ante Tomic took over with a layup-plus-foul. A turnaround jumper by Rafa Hettsheimeir kept Unicaja within 19-14. Tomic and Juan Carlos Navarro made free throws, but Caner-Medley followed a high-flying put-back layup with a triple for a 23-19 score. Navarro hit a fallaway jumper, but Vladimir Stimac scored down low. A huge buzzer-beating three-pointer by Suarez brought Unicaja within 25-24 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Unicaja keeps it close
Victor Sada struck from downtown early in the second quarter, but Txemi Urtasun matched it with an acrobatic jumper and a layup by Stimac tied it at 28-28. Bostjan Nachbar made free throws and soon added a six-meter jumper to give Barcelona some fresh air at 32-28. The hosts improved their defense while a turnaround jumper by Sada made it a 6-point game. Domas Sabonis stepped up with a put-back basket that Nachbar erased with a driving layup. Hettsheimeir nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key, as Unicaja improved on defense with Sergi Vidal and Caner-Medley at the forward spots. Hettsheimeir insisted from downtown and a fast break layup by Vidal gave Unicaja its first lead, 36-38. Alex Abrines provided a highlight with a big dunk off the baseline and a corner three-pointer by Huertas put Barcelona back ahead, 41-38. A free throw by Granger and a triple by Vidal put Unicaja ahead, 41-42, but Abrines answered from downtown for a 44-42 Barcelona edge at halftime.
Third quarter: Suarez, Granger put Unicaja ahead
Stimac hit a jump hook immediately after the break, but a layup by Papanikolaou put Barcelona back ahead, 46-44. Suarez beat the shot-clock buzzer with a bomb from downtown only to see Papanikolaou quickly answer with a three-pointer of his own. Zoran Dragic scored in penetration and back-to-back triples by a red-hot Suarez gave Unicaja a 49-55 margin. After Abrines made free throws, Stimac scored down low. A layup by Tomic kept Barcelona within 53-57. Huertas took over with a coast-to-coast layup and Joey Dorsey brought the hosts a bit closer. Jayson Granger buried a four-meter jumper, which Dragic followed with a backdoor layup to restore a 56-61 Unicaja edge. Granger scored again, but Nachbar answered with a layup and an easy basket by Huertas made it a three-point game. Granger took over with a wild three-point play and free throws by Caner-Medley boosted the guests' lead to 61-68. A three-pointer by Oleson and Dorsey slam closed the deficit to 66-68.
Fourth quarter: Navarro keeps Barcelona undefeated
Dorsey ignited the crowd with a huge two-handed slam early in the fourth quarter and a three-pointer by Navarro completed the hosts' comeback, 71-68, after a 10-0 run. Kuzminskas stepped up with a quick basket that a red-hot Navarro matched with a driving layup, causing Unicaja to call timeout at 73-70 with 7 minutes left. Navarro buried a corner triple and a 24-second Unicaja turnover allowed Nachbar to strike from downtown, making it a 9-point game. Earl Calloway joined the three-point shootout, but he didn't find much help around. Barcelona started using longer possessions and Tomic finished one of those with a layup for an 81-73 Barcelona lead with three minutes left. Vidal struck from downtown but Nachbar sank another triple that sealed the outcome, 83-76, in the next-to-last minute. Suarez hit his fifth three-pointer but it was already too late for Unicaja, as Barcelona had cruised to yet another Top 16 win.
Thursday, January 23, 2014