Two shots on two different nights in two different countries by Sarunas Jasikevicius have turned Group E into a dogfight. Just as he had two weeks ago in Pesaro, Italy, the Barcelona point guard lifted his team to victory again Thursday with a thrilling three-point buzzer-beater that toppled visiting Benetton Treviso from the ranks of the undefeated by a score of 76-75. It was a heavyweight championship of a game throughout, but Benetton looked to have won on a freakish play with 4.5 seconds left. With the score tied 73-73, Barcelona's Arturas Karnisovas fell out of bounds with a defensive rebound. Benetton's Jorge Garbajosa inbounded the ball, took a pass back from Sergei Chikalkin and dunked for a 73-75 Benetton lead with 4.3 seconds left. After a timeout, Barcelona was somehow able to get the ball to Jasikevicius near midcourt. He eluded the defense, stopped at the top of the three-point arc for a quite normal open shot and touched nothing but net. Like that, Barcelona tied Benetton at the top of Group E at 2-1, both of them ahead of Scavolini Pesaro (1-2) and Skipper Bologna (1-2).
The game had a very impressive start, with both teams scoring quickly and with style, Barcelona starting with an alley-oop dunk by Alain Digbeu and going ahead 7-6. The locals could not buy a basket from outside, however, and that spelled almost 4 minutes without scoring during which Benetton snuck ahead 7-11 on a fullcourt rumble by Nicola. While Barcelona hit 4 free throws, Nicola picked up another basket and his team's first three-pointer. Jorge Garbajosa followed with a three-point play good for Benetton's biggest lead thusfar, 14-22. Now, however, it was Chikalkin and Nicola missing three-pointers against a Barcelona zone. The locals took advantage with a three-point play by Roberto Dueñas and a runner by Nacho Rodriguez to pull within 19-22 after 10 minutes.
Barcelona used the last 5 points of that first period to take the lead early in the second quarter. Four points by young center Anderson Varejao extended the run to 11-4, then Sarunas Jasikevicius added a shot for a 27-26 Barcelona lead. The Benetton reaction was strong, however. Nachbar blasted a three-pointer and Denis Marconato put back a rebound. The visitors kept attacking until another Nachbar jumper put them up 35-38 with under 3 minutes left until halftime. Varejao was the livest wire on the Barcelona side, and his nifty reverse on a feed from Rentzias cut the lead back to 38-40. But then, on consecutive trips down the floor, Edney and Sergei Chikalkin smacked in three-pointers. Barcelona looked stunned as Nachbar canned another turnaround for a 38-48 Benetton lead at the half.
Nicola, an ex-player of Barcelona, was again the man on duty to give Benetton another big lead on a three-pointer at 40-51. Jasikevicius however wasn't ready to say goodbye to the Top 16 just yet and scored twice from behind the arc to keep his team in the game, 50-55. Neither team was able to score over the final three minutes as the 54-59 score remained untouched until the end of the quarter.
In the final minute, Edney converted two free throws and Karnisovas scored on a jumper for 73-73 with 29 ticks left. In what looked to be a final possession for Treviso, Edney's shot missed but as Karnisovas grabbed the rebound, he fell out of bounds, giving the Italians another shot. Garbajosa made good and scored on an easy layup, 73-75, and sent Benetton into a mini celebration. Barcelona had one chance left and called a timeout to think it over. With only 4.2 seconds remaining, Jasikevicius got the ball and ran up the court covered tightly by Edney. He shook his defender at midcourt for a little breathing room and let fly a three that found nothing but the bottom of the net as time ran out and lifted Barcelona to a 76-75 victory.
Thursday, March 21, 2002