It was not the least bit easy against an undermanned yet resourceful opponent, but Barcelona got the Top 16 off to the right start in Group G on Thursday by defending its home court with a 85-77 victory against Adecco Asvel. A 12-point lead at the end of the third quarter, courtesy of Gregor Fucka and Dejan Bodiroga, did not fully deter Asvel, which pushed back to within 6 points in the final 5 minutes. That's when Sarunas Jasikevicius and Roberto Dueñas put the game away with 5 consecutive points to give Barcelona a 1-0 record in Group G. Bodiroga led the winners with 23 points. Fucka added 17 points and 11 rebounds, Dueñas 15 points and 12 rebounds and Jasikevicius 11 points. For Asvel, which played without center Robert Gulyas against the Euroleague's tallest team, David Frigout came off the bench for 16 points, Harold Mrazek and Davor Marcelic added 13 each and Vasco Evtimov pulled off a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Barcelona opened the game going inside to big Roberto Dueñas for consecutive dunks, but at the other end, Asvel wasn't shy aboug going to the basket, either. Evtimov went under Dueñas for a reverse and a scoop shop, then Stevin Smith drove the lane and, following two straight Barcelona turnovers, Harold Mrazek finished a fast break to put Asvel ahead 4-8. But despite Evtimov's best efforts, with four small guys on the court otherwise, Barca got rebounds and ran. Gregor Fucka scored two straight basket, Bodiroga posted up for antother and then Rodrigo De la Fuente hit the game's first triple. When Fucka added another shot, Barca's run was 11-2 and its lead 15-10, forcing an Asvel timeout. The French champs kept knocking however, with Davor Marcelic scoring twice on running hooks in the lane to pull Asvel within 19-17. Before the quarter could finish, however, De la Fuente buried his second triple and Barca had a 24-19 lead to work with after 10 minutes.
Harold Mrazek kept Asvel close with his team's first three-pointer to open the second quarter. David Frigout and Evtimov added baskets around a triple from Barcelona guard Nacho Rodriguez. But the next three-pointer that fell was from Andre Owens of Asvel, in the corner trying to beat the shot clock, and it served to propel the visitors into the lead again, 31-30. That woke Barcelona quickly. Sarunas Jasikevicius took back the lead immediately for Barca with his first from behind the arc, then Fucka and Bodiroga added 5 free throws between them. But Evtimov put back a rebound and, after Sasha Giffa blocked Dueñas's shot at the other end, Simon Petrov hit a fastbreak three-pointer for Asvel. Like that, the Barca lead had dropped to 37-36. Barca got the ball to Dueñas and Bodiroga in the next two possessions, and the result was 5 more points and a little more breathing space, 42-36, by the time the halftime buzzer sounded.
Asvel, with its defense hustling anew, got close again soon after halftime as Marcelic and Evtimov put the score at 42-40 while Barca went 2 minutes without scoring. Over the next few, the hosts did it all, however. Fucka got the scoring started with a driving layup assisted with a no-look pass from Dueñas. Jasikevicius and Bodiroga then stepped out for triples and then Bodiroga scored a basket closer as the lead was boosted back to double digits, 53-42. Frigout kept Asvel from falling completely out of it with 3 nice shots among the Barcelona trees. But Bodiroga and Fucka were far from done. They finished the quarter sharing 11 more points. Fucka popped outside and put the exclamation point with a three-pointer. Barca was ahead 12 points, 64-52, after 30 minutes. Bodiroga was up to 18 points and Fucka 17 for Barcelona.
The fourth quarter seemed less a matter of who would win than by how much after Nacho Rodriguez got it started with a triple for 67-52. But as it had done all game, Asvel answered back, this time with a 5-13 run to within 73-65 midway through the quarter. Marcelic started and ended that run with three-pointers, while Evtimov was back and scoring. With four fouls, however, Asvel's only center could not battle Dueñas, who now scored his third consecutive basket inside. At the other end, Frigout scored twice to make the locals a little nervous with 75-69 on the board and 3 minutes remaining. Somebody had to stand up and settle things for Barca, and it was Jasikevicius, with another triple. With that and another Dueñas layup, the lead was back to 11 points, 80-69, with too little time left for Asvel to do much more than it already had.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Juan Antonio Casanova, Barcelona