The greatest team in European history. Has a nice ring to it, I think. Marcelino Huertas and Tiago Splitter, however, don’t think it sounds too special and they’ll do everything in their limited power to keep Barcelona from earning such a distinction. After wiping the court with seemingly half the world this year and picking up everything from the Copa del Rey to the Euroleague championship, the red and blue have already entered the sacrosanct “best ever” conversation and just might chop off the question mark with a convincing win against Caja Laboral in the best-of-five ACB Finals.
So when it’s time to tip off at 20:30 CET, check back here and we’ll get things going LIVE and updated continuously. It will be broadcast live and for free on the lifesaving ACB360 for your visual pleasure and if you needed any more reason to watch, our good friend Os Davis over at BallinEurope.com has laid out ten more reasons you should tune in.
And a prediction before we jump at center court: Barcelona wins this thing in 3 and sweeps their way into the history books as the most dominant team the continent has ever seen. Write it down, remember it.
-Here I am making a little smoothie, setting up my blogging station (fancy phrase which translates in Freaknenglish to ‘couch and small wicker desk’) and it’s 10-0?! In favor of Caja Laboral? Wow. I guess Mirza Teletovic and Marcelinho Huertas read my piece before the game and said, “Hey, I don’t like this Freaknick kid. Wanna jump out to a huge lead early to shut him? Cool, see you at the game then.” Six points for Mirza, Huertas has the other four. Goodness gracious.
-Two free throws hit bottoms for Tiago and it’s 12-0. There must be a full moon hanging over Spain tonight. Crazy things abound in Barcelona. 12-0.
-Boniface N’Dong gets Barca on the board and my cold sweat has switched into evaporation mode. While I’d love to see a hard fought game today, a Caja rout would kind of destroy any remaining credibility I have with the two or three people in the world who haven’t given up on me.
-Navarro with the floater. Order is restored to the universe.
-Jaka Lakovic has been called many things in his illustrious career, and now I’m calling him a copycat. Had to hit the three one possession after Pete Mickeal got the crowd off their feet with one of his own. It’s 10-18 and the opportunistic gap is closing for Caja to pull away with this one.
-Gianluca Basile has always been the jealous type. Hits a three as deep as Barcelona’s bench, which has been on full display in these past few minutes. The Caja lead is down to seven.
-With the clock racing to zeroes in the first quarter, Basile sets his feet, receives the pass from Señor Mickeal and buries it. I think the popping of the net is still echoing in the ceiling of Palau Blaugrana. It’s 16-22 with 25% of Game One out of the way.
-Terence Morris should be allowed to just drop the ball and walk away if he catches it within eight feet of the hoop. He shot 80% this season from 2 in the Euroleague and drops in the reverse lay to start the second quarter, bringing his beloved Barca down to four. It’s not surprising that Caja couldn’t sustain their torrid start, but you’d think they’d be able to get a few points off momentous residue alone. Not the case.
-Props to Caja head coach, Dusko Ivanovic. He’s got the ACB MVP in Splitter and gosh darnit, he’s going to use him. Turnaround jumper rattles in and the next time down they get it right into the big Brazilian again. Draws a double, kicks it back to Carl English who knocks it down without a dribble from the corner and has a few words for Gianluca Basile afterward. Good things happen when you run your offense through your best player, and no two teams in Spain understand that better than these two. Coincidence? Absolutely not. It’s 18-27 in favor of Vitoria.
-The only thing that can defend Walter Herrmann’s turnaround fadeaway is his own blonde hair whipping around and lashing at his cheekbone. Walter was ready though, with a headband and an army of rubberbands to hold it in place. A true veteran move.
-Carl English wearing the shooting sleeve today and taking its intended usage quite literally. Strokes a rainmaker to put the Caja lead at 10, 22-32.
-Caja is beating Barcelona by a Tiago Splitter, both literally—he’s getting whatever he wants against the league’s best interior D—and figuratively—Caja leads by Tiago’s point total, 12.
-Os Davis chirping in below that he might have to stop ‘dissing’ Gianluca Basile. I’d offer this advice: don’t give up hope! I’ve been shooting the tires of the Mirza Teletovic bandwagon for two seasons now and every time he goes 0-7 in a quarter I feel pleasantly vindicated. If you don’t believe in your own doubts, who will?
-Just wore out the ‘delete’ button on my Mac after starting a sentence questioning Ricky Rubio’s playmaking desire and he preemptively answers with a three, his first points of the evening. We’ve got a 28-34 game with just over a minute left until halftime.
-Lorbek with his second helper to Boniface who puts it home. You think these two are comfortable sharing the paint with one another or what? No egos on this Barcelona team.
–¡La Bomba! Juan Carlos Navarro is the easiest unforgettable player to lose track of. Caja would be wise to keep tabs on No. 11. After leads of 10 and 12, Barcelona has cut this thing down to 32-34 at halftime. Not looking good for the boys in…is that teal and pink? Maybe navy and salmon sounds a little tougher.
-Granted, my Spanish is iffy at best, but I’d love to be given a chance to decipher what Rudy Ferandez is telling the nice lady with the microphone and distinguished bangs on the sideline. Unfortunately, the audio doesn’t seem to be coming in clearly or at all. I wonder what he’s saying. My guess: “The NBA is not fun and I have no friends in Portland. Sergio Rodriguez left and I’m sad now. I’ll dance around it for a month or two, but ultimately I’ll be back in Spain in a year. Before I go, a quick shoutout to my stylist Danté who hooked me up with this slick hairstyle, Ricky Martin V-neck tee, these stonewashed Tru Religion jeans and this nifty little charm bracelet I have on. You’re the best, TayTay!”
-This third quarter brought to you by Boniface N’Dong and Juan Carlos Navarro. A three from Navarro, a jumper by N’Dong and then a dirty alley-oop from the former to the latter.
-This might be one of those times where I’d say, “If you had told me Barcelona would be up by 5 in the third quarter after they were down 12-0, I’d say you’re crazy.” That’s the thing though; it’s really not a wildly-fangled idea at all. This Barcelona team has more poise than any I’ve seen outside the San Antonio Spurs of the mid-2000s.
-Fran Vath-queth rolls to the hoop better than anyone in Europe. There, I said it.
-Wait, I was under the impression Mirza Teletovic had to pick a half before each game and only hit shots within the confines of those two quarters. So where does he get off hitting a corner three after going silent since the first quarter?
-ACB360 showing replays of the Ricky Rubio missed dunk, prodding me to include it in my blog. I glazed over it a little earlier because A) I was still trying to catch up and B) I just didn’t want to think about it. I’m a Rubio supporter through and through and I try to keep his failures on the hush-hush.
-A cool statistic indicative of Barcelona’s consistency: Barca’s points by quarter: 16; 16; 16. Caja Laboral’s points by quarter: 22; 12; 11. You can start hot, but falter and risk falling behind as they proceed along steadily.
-Mirza Teletovic ties it at 48-48 with a ginormous three. In other news, ‘ginormous’ not flagged as a spelling error on WordPress. Awesome.
–¡Qué bonito! Fernando San Emeterio goes George Gervin and hits ’em with the Ice Man finger roll to put Caja at half-a-hundred, 48-50.
-If Splitter is the big name superstar on this Caja team, San Emeterio is the understated source of stability for this team. Down two he dribbles through three Barcelona players and swishes it through off glass to tie things up. He just changed this game, maybe this series with equalizer yet his face says “What did you expect? This is what I’m here to do.” I like this dude more and more, and the world will meet him this summer in Turkey.
-With the exception of the first few minutes against CSKA in Paris this year, I’m not sure I’ve seen Barcelona as flatfooted on offense as they’ve been the last 2-3 possessions. Rubio settles for two 3’s and not a single player made a hard cut. It’s like putting Dan Marino out there with no receivers (American football reference, sorry).
-Marcelinho Huertas buries a bomb to put Caja up five, 56-61! Three minutes left and the upset is seeming more probable with each dribble.
-Navarro and Huertas both take running floaters. Only one of them hits it. It’s not who you’d think. Caja up five again with 1:08 remaining. Did not see this coming.
-Barcelona loses it on the inbounds and Marcelinho Huertas chases it down and it’s out of bounds off Jaka Lakovic! Reminiscent of Rajon Rondo vs. Jason Williams in the Eastern Conference Finals, hustle wins championships.
-The flat-footedness which dug them their fourth quarter graves knocks them in, covers them up and stowing the shovel. The word ‘lifeless’ comes to mind. Maybe ‘comatose’. I understand you’re calm and collected (the poise I mentioned earlier) but eventually someone has got to step up with some competitive fire when it counts. And if Navarro’s shots aren’t falling it needs to be someone else.
-Disappointed with Pete Mickeal’s unassertive play tonight. Only 2/6 for the game with no trips to the foul line and only four attempts from inside. The ACB’s most physically gifted perimeter player needs to take a page out of San Emeterio’s book and go the hole. He’s a wasted commodity when you pigeonhole him as a shooter out there on the perimeter. That’s where the old guys like Lakovic ad Basile belong. But not Pete.
For Caja Laboral: Tiago Splitter (6/14, 16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block); Marcelinho Huertas (4/9, 11 points, 3 assists and a handful of huge plays down the stretch. Really bended the game to his will in the fourth quarter.); Fernando San Emeterio (4/7, 10 points, 9 rebounds); Mirza Teletovic (4/10, 11 points, 6 rebounds)
For Regal FC Barcelona: Juan Carlos Navarro (5/15, 17 points, 3 assists) Boniface N’Dong (6/7, 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) Erazem Lorbek (0/5, 0 points, 8 rebounds) Ricky Rubio (1/8 , 3 points, o assists. There’s a direct correlation between the 5 threes Ricky took and the zero assists he dished out. When he’s settling it means he’s not driving, and when he’s not driving it means people aren’t moving around him and the defense gets to rest.
-Xavi Pascual is going to have a brain hemorrhage when he sees the film. To condense the mistakes into a coherent little package and keep Pascual’s heart from palpitating, they should watch the first six minutes of the first quarter and the last eight of the fourth.
Well it looks like I’m wrong again, but at this point that’s clearly expected. Stop by and see us the next time around, and thanks for joining me this evening. Keep those comments comin’.