Finalists for third year in a row (86-78)
Sònia de Alba
Without Lubos Barton, who watched from the Regal Barça bench and without Berni Rodríguez, out with a sprain, for Unicaja Malaga, the deciding ACB semi final game was left to other men to clinch, as well as the vociferous Paula Blaugrana crowd.
The Palau loves its hoops. There was applause for Aíto García Reneses and even more for Xavi
Pascual, and also for feeder club WTC Cornellà, who have been promoted this season, plus the
players that finished second in the Circuito Sub-20, before the crunch match got under way.
Hard fought start
David Andersen opened the scoring but Unicaja replied with a three from Gomis, setting the
tone for a serious game in which both offences got their jobs done.
Xavi Pascual’s side also defended well and starting accumulating points, with some
great long throws first from Andersen, then from Roger Grimau, to make it 23-19 after 10 minutes.
The captain was in inspired form, and a penetrating move completed by the man in the 44 shirt left
Aíto García Reneses pleading with his players to explain how they had allowed it to happen.
Effective and improving
Regal Barça were posting excellent three point
percentages, and despite some fine scores from Archibald, including six almost in a row, Barça were
soon +10 following a Navarro three pointer.
The home side’s rotations worked well, with all of the players accepting their
Ilyasova and Grimau looked to stretch the lead, including an NBA-esque assist from the guard
that was slammed home by the Turk.
Carlos Cabezas was then gifted a score by Barça to make it 45-38 at the break.
But if Barça undid all their good work in the third period in Malaga, the same happened in
A 0-6 streak saw Robert Archibald close the gap (45-42). But Malaga, seriously missing
Haislip, didn’t make the most of the opportunities Barça were giving them.
Nevertheless, Germán Gabriel tied affairs on 55, with Grimau then scoring to edge his side
Barça were playing desperate basketball, and going into the final period were only narrowly
The final ten minutes were all about nerves and winning at all costs.
Malaga’s failed three point attempts gave
new life to Barça, who with a Basile three and an extraordinary effort from Navarro, started moving
Sada responded to an Omar Cook three, which had put Unicaja back in command, in the form of a
2+1 that made it 70-68 with three minutes to play.
With 20 seconds on the clock, Barça lost a foolish ball and almost handed Unicaja the win.
But Cook’s throw missed the target, and the game moved into overtime.
The additional period began with Andersen and Navarro scoring to complete a 5-2 streak.
It was all about free throws, with Unicaja suffering with the smaller squad due to injuries,
and Cook being fouled out.
Frees from Basile and a great individual play from Fran Vázquez pushed Barça six ahead
(82-76) with two minutes left to play.
A key rebound followed by two points from Sada with 1.24 to play were what definitively
sealed the game and sent Barça into the final series of the ACB play offs.