With a new head coach and a home crowd fired up for its favorite derby, Winterthur FC Barcelona delivered its first Group E win in solid fashion on Thursday, winning 84-71 over archrival Real Madrid in their first confrontation in European competition since 1996. The outcome forced the old adversaries into a 1-1 tie behind Group E leader CSKA. Juan Carlos Navarro stepped up in the last quarter, and 25 of 26 free throws in the second half, helped steer Barcelona to victory in its first game under new coach Manolo Flores, who took over the bench three days earlier. Navarro led the Barcelona scorers with 20 points, including 8 free throws without a miss in crunch time, Dejan Bodiroga added 16 points for the winners, Gregor Fucka 15, Vlado Ilievski 14 and Rodrigo De la Fuente 12. Barcelona made 35 of 40 free throws on the night as compared with 10 of 13 for Madrid. Despite dominating the rebounds by 22-34, Madrid lacked answers in the last quarter. The guests were led by Elmer Bennett with 25 points, while Louis Bullock added 13 and Mickael Gelabale posted 10.
Even though minutes before the game it had learned that power forward Andrija Zizic would not play due to the flu, a sold-out Palau Blaugrana was ready to roar when Fucka opened the scoring with a free throw. Bullock soon silenced them with the game's first triple, but Ilievski broke the zone defense of the guestsand De la Fuente followed from downtown for a 6-3 Barcelona lead. As the Barcelona defense went about forcing Madrid turnovers, Ilievski blasted another triple to make it 11-5. Mario Stojic came off the bench for Madrid and joined teammate Antonis Fotsis in drilling shots from the arc as the guests quicking came within 15-12. Bodiroga revived Barcelona with a three-point play, Ilievski scored again and De la Fuente slammed after a steal to boost the hosts to a 22-16 edge after 10 minutes.
Barca's defense forced a second Madrid shot-clock violation to start the second quarter but Pat Burke soon dunked and Bullock dropped a triple as the guests climbed within 23-21. Axel Hervelle then tied the score by slamming a put-back as it was the Madrid defense that was now forcing turnovers. Hervelle's free throws sealed a 1-11 Madrid run that left the guests in front, at 23-25. Bullock added a new jumper to the lead before Navarro finally broke a four-minute Barcelona scoring drought with a strike from the arc. Bodiroga finally found an easy basket, too, but otherwise zone defenses held back the scorers. Barcelona advanced through free throws until Navarro fed Fucka for a dunk that made the score 34-29 and brought the house down again. Mous Sonko silenced the crowd temporarily with Madrid's fourth triple. Ilievski sent Fucka in for a basket-plus-free throw worth a 37-32 scoreboard, but Bennett did the same and then had time to score over two defenders on the buzzer to forge a 37-37 tie at the break.
Real Madrid made its move after halftime with a 0-5 run on a three-point play by Gelabale and a jump shot by Bennett. Devin Davis got 2 points back for Barcelona at the foul line, but Madrid still went forward with three-point possessions, the latest a basket-plus-free throw by Felipe Reyes. Although the teams traded baskets now, Madrid dominated the offensive rebounds. Bennett was lethal and rained a new three-pointer to put Madrid up 45-50 as Barcelona relied on Bodiroga's efficiency from the stripe to stay alive until Navarro's 2 points made it 49-50. Bennett merely buried 2 new triples, stole and finished the fastbreak to reclaim a 53-58 advantage for Madrid. Fucka was on fire now, however, his three-point play sustained Barcelona until Bodiroga found 4 straight points to close the quarter by taking the lead back, at 59-58, for the hosts.
Ilievski opened the last quarter by feeding De la Fuente for a basket that made it 61-58. Ilievski continued with 3 free throws after being fouled on an attempted triple, but Bullock actually buried his shot from the arc, to keep Madrid as close as 64-63. The atmosphere at Palau Blaugrana was crackling now. Fucka made a nice move in the lane, and then, after a charging called on Sonko, Navarro blasted a monster triple to make it 69-63 with 4 minutes left. Bennett jumped back on-court, but was quickly whistled for a technical foul whose free throws Ilievski drained. David then scored from below to put the first double-digit lead, 73-63, on the board. Afte Bennett got loose for a new triple with 2:40 to go, Navarro took control of the game, drawing fouls and hitting 4 free throws that meant a 77-66 advantage with 90 seconds to go. When Bennett committed his fifth foul, Navarro dropped those free throws, too, and Barcelona had its first win the Top 16 under its new coach to celebrate at the expense of its old rival.
Thursday, March 3, 2005
J.A. Casanova, Barcelona