Showing that it has substance to go with its considerable style, Barcelona was never threatened at all on its home court Thursday as it cruised to an easy win, 84-62 over visiting Pau-Orthez. The victory, combined with a loss by Efes Pilsen at Cibona, left Barcelona as the sole undefeated team at 3-0 in Group A. Barcelona played like the dominator some expect it to be after jumping ahead in the first quarter. The lead was never threatened after that as a new top scorer, Patrick Femerling, paced the winners with 16 points. Four of his teammates - Juan Carlos Navarro, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Gregor Fucka and Dejan Bodiroga - contributed 11 points each. Dragan Lukovski led Pau, whose record fell to 1-2, with 15 points. The only other visitor in form was Florent Pietrus, with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Barcelona played up to its considerable potential at both ends of the floor in the first quarter. First, the hosts drilled in 8 out of their first 9 attempts. Some of those came in an 11-0 run that put them clearly in charge at 20-9 after 7 minutes. Before that, Pau had been level at 9-9 on a three-pointer from Kyle Hill. But despite some offensive rebounds, the guests were unable to score a field goal for the last 6 minutes, 9 seconds of the quarter. Their only points came at the foul line, and at that rate, Barcelona was able to reach the end of 10 minutes with a solid 22-14 advantage.
In the second period Pau-Orthez was at least keeping pace for awhile, making baskets again as the scoreboard reached 27-21 after 15 minutes. But when Barcelona needed a shot to go down, it had its choice between Bodiroga and Jasikevicius, and now the local bench came alive with its depth of talent. Barcelona coach Svetislav Pesic unleashed his nine-man rotation to keep the tempo and defensive pressure on high speed, and little by little Pau was deflated. A 9-0 run to finish the half featured 6 points by jumpy center Anderson Varejao, including a fine fastbreak dunk assisted by Jasikevicius. The lead ballooned to 18 at the half, 44-26, with Bodiroga and Jasikevicius on 9 points each for the hosts, the same as Hill for Pau-Orthez.
After the break, little changed. Barcelona did not get bored, and took its biggest lead at 54-31 after just 3 minutes. Center Patrick Femerling was now on the floor and playing his best basketball, containing Rod Sellers, who until this game was the top rebounder and second-best scorer in the Euroleague. The French side was limited to the rebounding efforts of Florent Pietrus and especially the points of Dragan Lukovski, who put up a dozen in the quarter on 5-for-5 shooting. It was not enough to make a dent in the deficit, however, as Barcelona cruised into the final 10 minutes leading 67-48.
The fourth quarter turned out to be a formality as far as the outcome, a party as far as the Barcelona fans were concerned. Pesic could play with his young players like Bravo and Alzamora. Rodrigo De la Fuente preserved the 20-point lead with 2 three-pointers before abother from Varejao that put the score at 82-57 with under 3 minutes remaining. By then it was all for the local fans, as they watched their team take the undisputed lead in Group A after just 3 games.
Thursday, October 24, 2002
Juan Antonio Casanova, Barcelona