Give it up for Barcelona, which remains the last undefeated team in the Euroleague after surviving a visit from Benetton Treviso by the minimum margin of 86-85 as the visitors missed a fastbreak layup in the closing seconds. The victory put Barcelona atop Group A at 5-0 and dropped Benetton to 3-2, good for a three-way tie for second with Efes Pilsen and Pau-Orthez. Barcelona trailed by 4 with under 5 minutes to play when Dejan Bodiroga sparked a 9-0 comeback move. Another Bodiroga basket, on an uncontested drive with 45 seconds left, proved the game-winner. After a Barcelona miss with 6 seconds left, however, Benetton had a two-on-two fastbreak in which Trajan Langdon missed the layup and Tyus Edney the put-back attempt as time ran out. Juan Carlos Navarro kept Barca going through much of the game and finished with a floor-high 24 points. Bodiroga added 17 and Roberto Dueñas a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds for the winners. Massimo Bulleri came off the bench to lead Benetton with 20 points, while Edney added 19 and Langdon 17.
Dueñas gave a sign of his big nigh by scoring the first basket, but Benetton made the next 7 points and Barcelona, playing without Sarunas Jasikevicius and Rodrigo De la Fuente, both injured, was in foul trouble very soon. But the main problem for the home side was its inability to match the good shooting performance of Benetton. The difference for the visitors grew and grew to unexpected 13 points, 6-19 after 7 minutes, on a nice move to the basked by Jorge Garbajosa. Only a good effort from its bench players - and especially from Navarro, who scored 6 points in the quarter - allowed Barcelona to come use an 8-0 run to get within 14-19. At the end of 10 minutes, however, Benetton was ahead on the scoreboard by 7 points, 16-23.
Cesar Bravo, another bench player, scored the basket that put Barcelona only one point down (22-23), but Benetton coach Ettore Messina reacted quickly and called back Marcelo Nicola and Garbajosa to the floor. Barcelona coach Svetislav Pesic took a technical foul and the crowded Palau Blaugrana seemed to explode. Edney and Gregor Fucka went to their benches with three fouls apiece and Benetton held an eight-point lead, 30-22, after 14 minutes, again on a basket by Garbajosa. But Navarro and Dueñas kept Barcelona on the game, the guard with a three-pointer to reach 13 points and the big man with the next 6 in a row, to reach 10. Benetton found it's answer, however, in Bulleri drove for two layups and then punctuated the half with his team's first three-pointer after 8 misses. Benetton was ahead 43-35 going to intermission with Langdon on 9 points.
Benetton's game-long rebounding problems owed to foul trouble for center Denis Marconato, who was benched with his fourth soon after the half. Dueñas became the king of the quarter, with 7 points and 5 rebounds, as Barcelona retook the lead. Benetton lost its timing, failed some open shots and Barcelona came back with its offensive rebounds, often followed by Italian fouls. An 8-0 run gave the local side a five-point lead, 54-49, in the 25th minute and a Dueñas basket off a nice feed from Andersen Varejao made it 58-54 a couple minutes later. But here came Benetton racing back with drives from Edney, a three from Langdon and a three-point play from Bulleri, that put the score 58-59 after 28 minutes. One minute later, with Dueñas taking a breath on the bench, Bulleri sank another three to complete the second huge turnaround on the scoreboard in just 8 minutes, 59-64. But the quarter wasn't over, and the way it ended - with back-to-back three-pointers that banked in, by Nacho Rodriguez and Navarro, on the buzzer - had Barcelona right back within 1 point, 67-68, after 30 minutes.
This game was going to be a real thriller one way or another in the final quarter. No team could get a lead with more than 1 point until Nicola made a three to put the score at 73-75 for Benetton with 7 minutes remaining. Benetton extended its lead to four points, 79-75, because Edney was unstoppable, but when he went to the bench for a while, Barcelona took the opportunity to regain the lead. That three-pointer from Bodiroga made it 82-79 with 3:14 remaining and subsequent free throws from Gregor Fucka put the locals up 84-79. But fifth fouls to Rodriguez and Bravo came as Bulleri made a big three-point layup-plus-foul to let Benetton close to within 1 point, 84-83. Navarro missed a three, but Dueñas grabbed another offensive rebound and got the ball to Bodiroga, who waltzed to the basked to put the locals up 86-83 when 45" remaining. A Langdon jumper came next for 86-85 and Barcelona in its last possession was forced to let Varejao shoot a three. But it was the same tall center who appeared under the basket to disrupt Langdon's game-winning layup attempt at the buzzer and preserve Barca's perfect record.
Thursday, November 7, 2002