Barcelona downs Vitoria to clinch first in Group F
FC Barcelona Regal became the Top 16 Group F champion by topping Caja Laboral Vitoria 83-74 in an all-Spanish League showdown at Palau Blaugrana on Thursday. Barcelona won its 10th straight game and improved to 11-1 to seal first place in Group F with two games remaining. Vitoria dropped to 6-6, but retains its chances to make it to the playoffs in what promises to be a close race until the end of the Top 16. Erazem Lorbek paced the winners with 16 points, Ante Tomic tallied 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, scoring king Juan Carlos Navarro recorded 14 points and 6 assists and C.J. Wallace came off the bench for 13 points in 13 minutes on perfect shooting. Maciej Lampe carried Caja Laboral with 21 points, Andres Nocioni added 11 and Thomas Heurtel 10. Barcelona shined on defense early and Wallace had 6 points late in the first quarter to give the hosts a 18-12 edge after 10 minutes. Barcelona's second unit - Victor Sada, Wallace and Marko Todorovic - took over in the second quarter to extend their team's lead to 15 before it settled at 42-32 at halftime. A rain of three-pointer and an unstoppable Lampe allowed Vitoria to rally and get a 52-53 edge late in the third quarter. However Lorbek and Navarro fueled a 9-0 run that gave Barcelona a 5-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The visitors kept it close and came within 2 with less than two minutes to go, but the hosts finished strong to clinch the win. A minute of silence took place before the game to honor former Barcelona player Joan Todoli, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 69.
First quarter: Wallace, defense list Barcelona
Juan Carlos Navarro got Barcelona going with a three-pointer from the top of the key. Vitoria was held scoreless for almost two minutes until Fabien Causeur stepped up with a fast break layup. Marcelinho Huertas fed Ante Tomic for a backdoor layup, as Lorbek headed to the bench with 2 quick fouls. Barcelona kept missing open shots and a close basket by Milko Bjelica kept Vitoria within 5-4. Pete Mickeal got the crowd involved with a coast-to-coast layup off a steal, as the guests kept struggling to find the way to the basket and took many off-balance shots. Nemanja Bjelica tried to change things with a put-back layup, but a jumper by Tomic restored a 9-6 Barcelona lead. Tibor Pleiss shined with a tip-in that brought Vitoria within 9-8. C.J. Wallace struck from downtown and Victor Sada ignited the crowd with a layup-plus-foul. Thomas Heurtel followed a layup with a six-meter jumper. Free throws by Wallace gave the hosts an 18-12 edge after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Sada, Todorovic extend hosts' lead
Nate Jawai dunked early in the second quarter, but a turnaround jumper by Lampe kept Vitoria within 20-14. Jawai took revenge with a two-handed slam. Nemanja Bjelica followed an off-balance triple and the free throw that came with it with another three-pointer to bring Vitoria within 22-21. Sada hit a jumper and Wallace downed one from beyond the arc to give Barcelona a 27-21 edge. Sada fed Wallace for a layup. Lampe dunked, but a jumper by Tomic boosted Barcelona's lead to 31-23. Omar Cook found Lampe for an uncontested slam, which Marko Todorovic erased with a put-back basket. A layup by Joe Ingles made it a double-digit game, 35-25. Fernando San Emeterio scored around tshe basket, but Navarro did it from downtown to cause Coach Zan Tabak stop the game at 38-27. Huertas found Todorovic for a backdoor layup and a one-handed jumper by Tomic broke the game open, 42-27. A three-pointer by Nemanja Bjelica and a buzzer-beater jumper by San Emeterio brought Vitoria within 42-32 at halftime.
Third quarter: Vitoria rallies, Barcelona holds on
Lampe nailed a running hook immediately after the break and a driving layup by Milko Bjelica made it a six-point game. Wallace finished a three-chance Barcelona offense with a jump hook, which Nocioni erased with a wild dunk in transition. Tomic scored down low before Causeur and Ingles traded corner three-pointers. Huertel buried his own shot from downtown. Lampe rolled off a high post pick to score, forcing Coach Xavi Pascual to stop the game at 49-46. A three-pointer by Milko Bjelica tied the game, 49-49, after an 0-8 run. Navarro rescued Barcelona with a seven-meter bomb, but Nocioni buried a six-meter jumper and a layup by Lampe completed Vitoria's comeback, 52-53. Navarro struck again from downtown and a jump hook by Lorbek gave the hosts some fresh air. Lorbek swished back-to-back five-meter jumpers to cap a 9-0 run, before a three-pointer by Nocioni fixed the score at 61-56 through three quarters. s
Fourth quarter: 7-0 closing run seals Barca victory
Lorbek scored again early in the fourth quarter, but Lampe buried a close jumper to keep Vitoria within 63-58. Barcelona struggled to score and free throws by San Emeterio and Lampe brought the guests even closer, 63-61. An unstoppable Lorbek ignited the crowd with a three-pointer, as Barcelona improved its defense, forcing Vitoria to use long possessions. Xavi Rabaseda also struck from downtown to boost the hosts' lead to 69-61 with seven minutes to go. Lampe scored down low and traded layups with Tomic. Lampe further trimmed the difference to 4 from the line. But a Lorbek jumper and Jawai’s strip of Lampe inside restored the hosts’ control. Sada buried a long jumper with 3 seconds left on the shot clock to make it 75-67. A pair of buckets from Nocioni made it a 5-point game with three minutes to play. Heurtel silenced the Barcelona crowd with a big three from the corner with 99 seconds remaining, 76-74. Navarro restored a two-possession edge with free throws. After Nemanja Bjelica missed from downtown, he fouled Tomic on the last second before the shot clock expired. Tomic boosted the Barca lead to 6. When Heurtel missed a quick layup, the outcome was clear and Lorbek wrapped it up with a three with 21 seconds left.
Thursday, March 21, 2013