Cibona got off to a quick start in front of its passionate home crowd and rode Slaven Rimac's clutch baskets to a 74-68 upset victory against Group A leader Barcelona on Wednesday night. Cibona is now 5-4 and has insured itself at least a tie for third place in Group A, while Barcelona's record slipped to 7-2, still good enough for first lace. Rimac finished with 23 point to pace Cibona, going 4-for-4 on three-point attempts. Jurica Golemac, with 14 points, was the only other Cibona player to score in double figures, but the team shot an impressive 9 of 17 from behind the three-point arc. Gregor Fucka's 27 points and 10 rebounds led Barcelona, who did not use star Dejan Bodiroga, though he was dressed for his first game in a month. Juan Carlos Navarro added 11 points for the defending champs, but Barca could only make 5 of 23 three-point attempts and fell behind by double-digit margin several times in the game.
With the support of its excited home crowd, Cibona was on fire in the opening minutes, bolting to a 7-2 advantage in 2 minutes of action thanks to 4 points from Josip Vrakovic plus a Rimac triple. Barca's offense sputtered, while Cibona's was cruising at full steam . A Scoonie Penn jumper made the score 18-6 in the minute 6, but Barca started to close the gap moments later when Rodrigo De La Fuente followed up a Gregor Fucka jump shot with a triple. Barca closed the gap to 6 points, 22-16, on two Vlado Ilievski free throws, but Cibona held off the defending champs with a 7-0 run spurred by Golemac that made the score 29-16 at the end of one quarter.
Penn set up Rimac for a triple to open the second quarter, as Cibona cruised to its biggest lead yet, 32-16. Cibona could not keep up the momentum, however, and Barca came back with a 0-9 run that made the score 32-27. Rimac stopped the bleeding with his third triple, but Fucka responded with a basket that made the score 35-29. Cibona boosted its lead back up to 39-30 when Rimac scored his 13th point of the game, but Barcelona rallied behind Fucka and De la Fuente, whose jumper in the 20th minute cut the gap to 41-34. Cibona's Barisa Krasic let a three-pointer fly before the halftime buzzer, but his miss marked the end of a satisfactory half for host Cibona.
Fucka's three-pointer to open the second half narrowed Cibona's lead to 41-37 and the defending champs were not done there. Minutes later, Navarro scored 5 points of a 2-7 Barca run that tied the score at 45-45 on a Fucka layup. Cibona did not panic, however. Davor Kus scored 4 consecutive points and Cibona was ahead 49-45 until Fucka matched Kus with free throws and another basket. Rimac's fourth triple gave the lead back to Cibona, and the hosts seemed to have recovered their momentum when Krasic copied him to make it 57-51. Roger Grimau's triple in the final seconds of the quarter brought Barca back to within 60-54 when the buzzer sounded.
Defense ruled for the first 2 minutes of the fourth quarter, as neither team managed to score until Grimau picked up where he left off at the end of the third period and burried two jumpers that pulled Barca to within 60-58. Fucka continued his offensive heroics, but Barca couldn't manage to catch Cibona. Andrija Zizic took advantage of two Navarro turnovers, scoring on the other end on consecutive possessions to boost Cibona's lead to 68-62 in the 38th minute. Barca pulled to within 70-68 when it went on a 0-6 partial capped by Vlado Ilievski's triple, but Cibona stepped up the challenge, as Marijan Mance drained a three-pointer that put the hosts ahead 73-68 with one minue remaining. On Barca's next possession, Ilievski missed a three-point attempt and the defending champs were forced to foul Marce, who made one of two free throws to ice the upset victory for Cibona.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Neven Berticevic, Zagreb