Defending champion FC Barcelona barely stayed undefeated on Wednesday night, beating Pau-Orthez 79-83 on the road in France as two late offensive rebounds by Patrick Femerling denied the hosts a possession to try to win. Barcelona is now 3-0 in Group A and now awaits Thursday's result between Union Olimpija and Ulker to find out if it owns or must share first place. Pau falls to 0-3 with a third consecutive last-minute defeat. Barcelona placed 5 scorers in double figures, led by Gregor Fucka, who scored 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Anderson Varejao had 16 points off the bench, while Juan Carlos Navarro added 15, hitting 10 of 10 free throws. Femerling, outstanding in the final 2 minutes, scored 12 and Dejan Bodiroga chipped in 10. Florent Pietrus led all scorers with 20 points for the hosts, while Laurent Foirest made 6 three-pointers to score 18 and Dragan Lukovski added 16.
Pau's defense gave the champs trouble early. Barcelona committed 3 turnovers in the opening 2 minutes, but Pau did not take full advantage of them. While Fucka scored in the paint and dunked coming off the baseline, the hosts survived from downtown. Lukovski and Foirest scored back-to-back three-pointers to give Pau a 10-8 lead. Barcelona kept on struggling in the offensive end, where only Fucka and Femerling, who combined for 15 points in the first quarter, seemed to be solid choices. A layup by Lukovski and a fast break dunk by Florent Pietrus gave Pau a six-point lead, 19-13. Barcelona managed to cut that deficit lead to 3 points with a basket by Fucka and a free throw by Dejan Bodiroga, to reach the end of the first quarter trailing 19-16.
Cyril Julian came off the bench and powered Pau by scoring 4 points early in the second quarter. After a four-meter jumper by Fabien Dubos, the hosts had a seven-point lead, 30-23, and their fans had a whole lot of hope. But Pau committed a fifth team foul early in the second quarter, and Navarro scored 4 free throws. When Femerling added a jumper, the guests were back within 1 point, 30-29. Barcelona got back the lead with a fastbreak dunk by the ever-present Fucka, 30-31, with 4 minutes to go in the half. Pau managed to tie the game at 34-34 with a tip-in by Pietrus, but Bodiroga finally appeared in the final 2 minutes to score 2 free throws, a two-meter jumper and a put-back at the buzzer to give the visitors a five-point halftime lead, 37-42.
Pietrus caught fire in the early minutes of the second half, scoring 10 points in 5 minutes, putting on a show in front of his fans. Femerling helped Barcelona in both ends of the court, but he picked up his fourth foul. Pietrus made a reverse layup to bring his team within one, 49-50, and Foirest scored a three-pointer to give Pau their first lead in the second half at 52-50. Rodrigo De la Fuente made an open three-pointer and Anderson Varejao added two from the free throw line to take Barcelona ahead, 54-57, but Artur Drozdov made a shot and Lukovski scored 4 free throws to power a 6-0 run and help Pau reach the end of the third quarter ahead, 60-57.
As it seems to like doing, Barca turned the tables on Pau with a 0-7 run to open the final quarter. Navarro had 5 of those points on jumpers from inside and outside the three-point arc, while Varejao added a put-back. Like that, Barca was now ahead, 60-64. Now, however, Pau relied on accuracy from downtown, courtesy of Lukovski and Foirest, to tie the game at 71-71 with 5 minutes to go. However, De la Fuente made a fastbreak layup and Varejao scored in the post to make it 71-75. After that, Pau never got the lead back the lead, but it came quite close. Pietrus made a two-handed slam and Mate Skelin added a layup to bring the hosts within 77-79 entering the final minute. Varejao hit 1 of 2 free throws and Lukovski answered with a layup to make it a one-point game, 79-80. Varejao missed a three-pointer at the end of the visitors' next possession, but Femerling tapped the ball back to Varejao, who was fouled with 4.7 seconds to go. Varejao missed the second free throw, but Femerling managed again to tap the offensive rebound, and Navarro sealed the win for Barcelona making 2 foul shots with 0.9 seconds on the clock.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003