Montepaschi Siena provided a big surprise in Group F by beating FC Barcelona 85-86 on the road on Wednesday night. A free throw by David Vanterpool with 0.8 seconds left won it for Montepaschi despite a 9-0 final run which brought Barcelona back into the game after everything had seemed lost. Both teams share a 2-2 record in Group F, while Benetton (2-1) and Panathinaikos (1-2) will play in Treviso tomorrow. Bootsy Thornton led the winners with 20 points, while Roberto Chiacig and Vanterpool posted double-doubles with 17 points and 11 rebounds apiece. Michalis Kakiouzis also added 17 points on 3 of 6 three-pointers and grabbed 8 rebounds, while Vrbica Stefanov pitched in 11 points for Montepaschi. Juan Carlos Navarro led Barcelona with a Euroleague career-high 31 points on 6 of 10 two-pointers, 3 of 5 threes and 10 of 11 free throws, while Dejan Bodiroga added 15 for the defending champions. Bodiroga became the fourth player in Euroleague history to score 1,000 points or more, joining Marcus Brown, Alphonso Ford and teammate Gregor Fucka in that select club.
Montepaschi had a strong start in the defensive end, as Barca's lone basket in the opening 4 minutes was a Navarro three-point play. The guests fired back, as a running jumper by Vrbica Stefanov ignited a 0-8 run in which Thornton scored 5 points that gave Montepaschi a 3-8 edge. The hosts regained the lead at 9-8 after back-to-back three-point plays by Roberto Dueñas and Bodiroga. Montepaschi took back the lead at 15-19 on the strength of Vanterpool's consecutive three-pointers. Bodiroga came to the rescue for Barcelona with a basket in the low post, while Rodrigo De La Fuente added a put-back to tie the game at 19-19. Montepaschi had the final word in a high-scoring first quarter, as 2 floating layups by Stefanov were enough to give the guests a 21-23 lead after 10 minutes of pure basketball, as both teams had no turnovers in the first period.
The second quarter was radically different, as both teams improved their defense. Marc Gasol stepped up for Barcelona with 4 quick points, Montepaschi switched to zone defense, but entered the foul bonus with 6 minutes to go in this period, and the hosts looked for low post situations to go to the line often. As such, Gasol and Bodiroga combined 3 free throws to make Barcelona regain the lead at 29-28. Several lead changes followed, as Christian Drejer stepped up with 5 points for Barcelona, but a three-pointer by Kakiouzis gave the guests a 36-40 lead. Navarro answered from downtown in the following play, and added 2 free throws soon after that for a 41-40 Barcelona edge, before Thornton beat the buzzer with an incredible turnaround three-pointer with gave Montepaschi a 41-43 lead at halftime.
Bodiroga powered the hosts early in the third with 2 quick baskets, while a fast break layup by De La Fuente gave Barcelona the lead at 47-45. Montepaschi struck back with a 0-8 run in which Vanterpool had 5 points and Stefanov added a huge three over Bodiroga to make it a six-point game at 47-53 after 25 minutes. Navarro answered with a layup, but Montepaschi extended its lead to double-digits, 49-59, with 4 points by Thornton and a fast break layup by Stefanov. Barcelona had troubles in the defensive end against a well-balanced offense, with good shot selection and Stefanov as the true leader on the court. Dueñas found a couple of baskets in the paint, but Kakiouzis's good offensive work and a clutch jumper by Vanterpool were enough to give Montepaschi a 57-68 lead entering the fourth.
Barcelona needed a quick comeback and things started looking good for the hosts, as a three by De La Fuente ignited a 12-2 run highlighted by 5 points by Navarro that made the score 69-70 with 6 minutes to go. Vanterpool stepped up with a big three-pointer, and Kakouzis followed him with one triple of his own to give Montepaschi a safe lead at 69-76. Navarro carried on with his one-man show in the final period, drilling a three which to bring Barcelona within 76-80 with 3 minutes to go. Thornton took over with a three from the top of the arc, and Chiacig added a wild dunk which seemed to seal the game at 76-85. Montepaschi went scoreless for almost 2 minutes, while Ilievski, Navarro and Bodiroga scored from downtown to tie the game at 85-85 with 10.9 seconds to go as fans went wild. Montepaschi looked for Vanterpool for a drive to the basket and he drew a shooting foul. His first shot bounced three times on the rim but went in, sealing the Montepaschi's victory he missed his second attempt on purpose.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004