Barcelona outlasted Madrid 68-61
Regal Barcelona came alive late to hold off archrival Real Madrid 68-61 in the opener of their Quarterfinal Playoffs series on Tuesday at Palau Blaugrana. Pete Mickeal drilled back-to-back triples to tie the game and then put Barca ahead for good as his team remained undefeated at home this season. Barcelona has now won 34 consecutive home games in all competitions dating back to a playoffs loss against Caja Laboral last season. Game 2 is set for the same site on Thursday before the series heads to the Spanish capital for Games 3 and 4 next week. If needed, Game 5 will take place at Palau Blaugrana on April 7. The winner of the series will advance to the 2010 Euroleague Final Four in Paris. It was an exciting contest that featured four ties and two lead changes in the fourth quarter alone. But Madrid went cold midway through the fourth quarter and Mickeal scored 8 in an 11-0 run that wrapped up the win. Mickeal finished with 18 points, Boni NDong added 14 and Juan Carlos Navarro 11 for the winners. Darjus Lavrinovic paced Madrid with 14 points and 8 rebounds, Sergio Llull scored 9 and Pabo Prigioni dished 8 assists.
Mickeal got Barcelona going with a two-handed fast break dunk as the hosts tried to run their offense through Erazem Lorbek and Ndong in the opening minutes. Marko Jaric shined with a fast break layup as Madrid opted to slow down the game tempo by using long possessions. Mickeal scored down low, but Jaric answered with an acrobatic basket. Navarro hit his trademark 'bomba,' but a jump hook by Ante Tomic tied it at 6-6. Navarro split free throws and fed Lorbek for a mid-range jumper. Madrid dominated the game tempo through an outstanding Prigioni. Jorge Garbajosa took over with a three-point play, but Ricky Rubio banked in a fade-away jumper and soon added a big three-pointer to restore a 14-9 Barcelona edge. Tomic took over with a backdoor layup that Lorbek matched with a baseline jumper. Prigioni sank a jump hook against Rubio. Barcelona tried to speed up its offense with Jaka Lakovic and Roger Grimau on court. Madrid improved its offense with its second lineup on the floor, as a layup by Lavrinovic and a step-back jumper by Sergio Llull gave the guests their first lead, 16-17. Gianluca Basile struck from downtown to put Barcelona back ahead, 19-17, after 10 minutes.
Madrid ran its offense through Lavrinovic and Felipe Reyes early in the second quarter, trying to generate double-team opportunities to find open shots for Louis Bullock and Travis Hansen. Basile set the crowd on fire with his trademark 'tiro ignorante' from way downtown, but a reverse layup by Reyes kept Madrid within 22-19. Fran Vazquez lifted the crowd with a huge tomahawk dunk - and the free throw that came with it. Rimas Kaukenas buried a stop-and-pop jumper. Rubio and Navarro returned to the floor, but Madrid stayed aggressive on defense and an open triple by Jaric made it a one-point game. Rubio ran the length of the court for a layup in transition, but another jump hook by Tomic kept Madrid within 27-26. Lorbek and Navarro hit free throws, however a left-handed driving layup by Garbajosa and a seven-meter bomb by Llull tied it at 31-31. NDong scored down low and free throws by Navarro gave Barcelona some fresh air at 35-31. Lavrinovic silenced the crowd with a driving layup that Navarro matched with more foul shots. Garbajosa finished a long Madrid offense with an open triple to make it 37-36 at halftime.
Reyes and Mickeal traded baskets immediately after the break. Madrid improved its intensity with Prigioni's on-the-ball defense against Rubio. A jumper by Reyes put Madrid back ahead, 39-40. Barcelona could not find the way to the basket, but a dunk by Vazquez got the crowd involved again. Lavrinovic followed an open three-pointer with a huge alley-oop dunk as Barcelona called a much-needed timeout at 41-45. Barcelona tried its best offensive lineup with Navarro, Mickeal, Vazquez and Lorbek together on court, but an uncontested layup by Kaukenas made it a 6-point game after a 0-7 run. Mickeal dunked off a steal, but Reyes scored in the low post. Madrid followed its game plan with a lot of patience on offense, but a big block by Lorbek on Tomic led to a fast break dunk by NDong that changed the game momentum. Ndong and Mickeal soon added free throws to bring Barcelona within 48-49. Madrid tried twin point guards with Prigioni and Llull together on the floor, but did not improve its ball circulation. NDong set the crowd on fire with a put-back dunk. Free throws by Lavrinovic and Jordi Trias fixed the score at 51-51 after 30 minutes.
Ndong downed a five-meter jumper early in the fourth quarter. Llull erased it with an incredible alley-oop layup. Barcelona tried Victor Sada to stop Llull, but he took over with a rainbow jumper, good for a 53-55 Madrid lead. Ndong stayed on fire with another mid-range jumper and a jump hook to restore a 57-55 Barcelona edge with seven minutes left. Hansen struck from downtown and Lavrinovic finished a long, three-chance Madrid offense with a layup that forced coach Xavi Pascual to call timeout at 57-60. Madrid was all over the place on defense, cutting all passing lines. Barcelona, however, found a go-to guy in Mickeal, who downed back-to-back three-pointers to make the guests stop the game at 63-60. Mickeal kept shining in crunch time with a long offensive rebound and a wild driving layup that made it 65-60 with under three minutes left. Madrid struggled to score right when it mattered most and had already entered the foul bonus. Navarro hit free throws and even though Madrid kept trying, Barcelona was already celebrating a Game 1 win in what promises to be an incredible best-of-five series.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Javier Gancedo, Barcelona