The candidacy of Partizan Mobtel as a team to watch all during this Euroleague season was boosted on Thursday when it handed defending champion F.C. Barcelona its first Group A defeat, 61-57, before an excited crowd in Belgrade. It was not just a symbolic win that ruined the first game of Dejan Bodiroga against his favorite team in Belgrade, either. The victory gave Partizan solid hold on second place with a 4-2 record, just a step behind 5-1 Barcelona. Gerald Brown scored the final 4 points of this defensive battle for Partizan, but the key basket was the game-tying dunk by teenage big man Kosta Perovic with under 2 minutes left. Balance marked Partizan's effort as Brown, Frederick House and Vule Avdalovic scored 12 points each. House added 7 rebounds and 9 steals. Barcelona also had three best scorers with same points - Patrick Femerling, Dejan Bodiroga and Roger Grimau with 10 each.
Over 7.000 Partizan fans greeted Bodiroga with standing ovations to start the game. From the outset, Partizan's defensive ace, House, took care of Europe's best player. Barcelona started great on defense, while Partizan was confused on both sides of the court. The guests led 0-4, then 3-7, after Rodrigo De la Fuente's triples, and finaly 4-12 after a fastbreak. Partizan scored 4 points from the line in the first 6 minutes. Brown finally made a shot from the field with less than 3 minutes to go, and the first quarter ended with Barcelona ahead 12-15 as each team played very careful with lot of fouls.
The second quarter started with a Cesar Bravo three-pointer for Barcelona. Partizan played much quicker, with three guards, while Barcelona was more static with big Roberto Dueñas on the court. House posted offensive rebounds and points, Djuro Ostojic did the same, while Barcelona finished three possessions with offensive fouls as the score was tied 18-18. Avdalovic made his team's first three-pointer for Partizan's first lead, 21-18, in the middle of the period. From that point until the end, both teams played basket-for-basket, with Partizan retaining a minimal lead, 30-29 at the half.
After halftime, it was becoming obvious that the game will not be decided until the final minutes. Avdalovic brought quickness to his team's possessions in the beginning of the second half. When Ostojic scored in minute 24, Partizan led 38-33. But Barcelona answered immediately with 4 points from Bodiroga. House dunked and after a short time added a layup, bringing the margin back to 5 points, but Anderson Varejao tied the score 42-42 for Barcelona at the end of 30 minutes as both teams kept playing hard on defense.
After a basket by Varejao, Avdalovic made a shot from downtown for the hosts, but an ex-Partizan player, Vlado Ilievski, returned the triple soon for Barca. When Partizan head coach Dusko Vujosevic was given a technical foul, it added to a 3-14 run with which Barcelona took a 45-51 advantage. With 5 minutes left, House scored twice, with a putback that made it 49-51, though Partizan shooter Dusan Kecman then fouled out. Gregor Fucka scored again and it seemed that Barcelona would keep its four-point margin until the end of this hard game that featured defense against defense, 24-second attacks on both sides of the court, a lot of heavy matchups and hard-fought rebounds. Avdalovic tied again 53-53 with 3 minutes left, but Barcelona brought itself ahead 53-56 a minute later. Then young Perovic dunked, House and Avdalovic stole a couple of balls and Partizan made 6-0 mini-run. Fucka missed 1 from the line in the last minute of the game, Brown was fouled in the last second and he scored 2 for the final 61-57. In the end, Barcelona had 24 turnovers and that was the key of the game. House had 9 steals, other Partizan players added 5 more. Barcelona missed 10 free throws, and Partizan won the points-in-the-paint tally, 32-14.
Thursday, December 11, 2003