Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Caja Laboral Completes Shocking Sweep of Barcelona

Fernando San Emeterio, who had only scored three points up until the last five seconds of the game, came through with maybe the biggest play in Baskonia (Caja Laboral) history.

After a Gianluca Basile missed free throw with 7.5 secs left in OT, San Emerterio quickly isolated Basile up high, drove left and finished on the right side as Terrence Morris fouled him. Then San Emeterio calmly nailed his free throw with .5 secs left to give Caja a 79-78 lead. Barca's desperation heave was for naught. Game over, Caja 79, Barca 78 (OT). Series over, Caja wins the 2010 ACB Finals 3-0.

Caja completes a stunning sweep of the most dominant team in Europe this season. Barca was such an overwhelming fave that just one win for Caja was unlikely. It's not just that Barcelona was a combined 56-5 (ACB + Euro) before the finals, it was the fact they dominated their competition throughout Europe all year--basically outscoring their opponents by an average of +15 ppg.

Barcelona's status as one of the premier European teams of all-time takes a massive hit with no ACB Finals title on their resume. And the 2009-10 Caja club should be remembered as one of the biggest giant-killers of all-time.

This improbable series ended in crazy fashion. Caja was up five points with a minute left in regulation, but Barca was able to force OT thanks to a questionable non-call on a possible goaltending on Caja's last second attempt.

Thought Caja put the game away for good in the 4th when Pau Ribas hit a left corner 3pt. that put them up 66-61 with a minute left. But Barca responded immediately with Navarro drilling an off-balance 3pt. off a down screen and drawing the foul. Ricky Rubio made a great feed in transition to a trailing Morris that tied the game with :30 left in regulation.

Should have this game even been in overtime? Not positive, but it looked like Morris got Lior Eliyahu's last second shot on the way down.

After falling behind early in OT thanks to multiple TOs, Rubio hit a corner 3pt. that gave Barca a 75-70 lead with 1:30 in OT. Caja's Mirza Teletovic scored six points of his eight points in the last minute to pull Caja within 77-76 with 10 secs left. Barca's Gianluca Basile was fouled with 7.5 secs left but the normally sweet-shooter only made 1-of-2, making the score 78-76. Then, San Emeterio grabbed the missed FT and finished off Barca's season.

Caja's tremendous defensive effort was the key to the series and was key to the Game 3 victory. We think our take from Tuesday's post sums up what happened in Game 3 and in this series:

    The main reason the script is flipped in this series has to be Caja's defensive play. Barca's pick/roll action has been smothered, the help and recovery has been textbook and it seems as if every shot by Barca has been contested. Also, they've done a nice job defending JC Navarro off the phalanx of screens run for him. They're doing the same things they did in the semis vs. Real Madrid. Just surprised the defense is having the same effect on Barca.

For the third game in row, Barca struggled to knock down their 3pt. looks--7-for-30 from deep. Caja never let Barca shoot better than 31% on 3PA in any of the three games and held them to 26% 3pt. shooting overall for the series. Barca was renowned for their spacing and came into this series shooting 39% from behind the arc.

In Game 3, Barca managed to shot 43% from the floor, their best percentage of the three games. Pete Mickeal was Barca main source of offense in the 1st half scoring most of his 16 pts in the half. Barca was able to get out in transition a little more than they did in the first two games. But for the most part, Caja's transition defense was solid again.

Caja did a terrific job holding Barca to 39% overall for the series--Barca came into the series shooting 50% from the field. Caja stifled one of the most efficient offenses in Europe and one of the most dangerous scorers in Europe, JC Navarro.

Navarro finished with 18 pts but once again had to work very hard for his scoring opportunities. Juan was 5-for-15 from the field and 3-for-9 from distance. In the Finals, Navarro only shot 32% from the field, 29% from 3pt. land. Juan came into this series shooting 46% overall, 39% from deep.

Barca started off OT with three straight TOs, including a charge that disqualified Mickeal with his 5th foul. Barca started off the 4th with two straight TOs after they had taken a one-point lead at the end of the 3rd. But Barca managed to grab a five -point with about a minute left but frittered it away. Have to say Barca's late game execution throughout the series left a lot to be desired.

For the second game in a row, liked Rubio's aggression on the offensive end. Ricky played his best game of the series with 14 pts, 8 rebs, 5 stls & 4 assts. Ricky only had six assists in the series and shot 2-for-10 on 3PA. But give Ricky credit for looking to score in the last two games, something he's been reluctant to do this season.

Lior Eliyahu (Rockets hold rights) had been rather ineffective this season because of injuries but was huge for Caja on Tuesday. Lior scored all of his 18 pts inside 10 feet on lay-ins and flick shots a la Antawn Jamison. Eliyahu did a nice job finding open space and even added two nice scores off of left-block post-ups. Walter Herrmann came off the bench to give Caja his usual activity/toughness that resulted with seven points, six rebs and some drawn fouls.

Tiago Splitter was the best player on floor in Game 3 with a sweet stat line of 14 pts, 13 rebs (4 off.), 4 assts, 4 stls & 2 blks. Splitter came up huge in the OT period with one of his patented hooks, a tip-in off one of his misses and stepped up to take a charge on Pete Mickeal that fouled him out.

Tiago was effective scoring down low on lay-ins and hooks with both hands, not to mention he tossed a few touch passes into the mix. His defense in screen action was superb as usual and he did another fine job on Erazem Lorbek.

Tiago was rightfully named Finals MVP, though Huertas and San Emeterio were ballin' as well in this series. This series solidified our opinion that Tiago is the best all-around big outside the NBA and should have little difficulty transitioning to the NBA.

Hat tip to Caja coach Dusko Ivanovic for putting together a stellar gameplan (particularly on defensive end) and getting his team to play at such a high level. Ivanovic's team just pulled off one of the bigger upsets pro basketball has seen.


At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Os, BallinEurope said...

Nice take on this game and nice coverage on the ACB finals in general -- a tip of the cap to you!

Yes, coach Dusko was awesome, bringing a stellar gameplan, but i lay much of the lost coaching battle on Xavi Pascual on the other side.

By game three, Barca had kind of adapted and the Splitter pick-and-roll wasn't constant, so why couldn't the Blaugrana revive their own game?

And you're absolutely right about contested shots being a factor, too. I can't believe the lack of sense of urgency this Barcelona time played with this season. Often they were just so good, they'd cruise to wins anyway (cf. against Real Madrid in the EL quarters, against Oly in the finals, during the Copa del Rey) -- but not this time. Congrats to Baskonia!

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