FC Barcelona claw back late but fall to Real Madrid in Game One, 78–72

FC Barcelona claw back late but fall to Real Madrid in Game One, 78–72

Fourth quarter comeback attempt not enough, despite Mario Hezonja's big night from beyond the arc Game two set for Sunday at 12.30pm CET in Madrid

Rudy Fernández scored 17 points (1-4 FG, 3-4 3Pt, 6-6 FT) and Sergio Rodríguez added 12 points (3-3 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-4 FT) and eight assists, as Real Madrid took advantage of a late first-quarter run and fended off a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to beat FC Barcelona in Game One of the Liga ACB Finals at the BarclayCard Center in Madrid.

Barça’s Mario Hezonja had a game-high 18 points (1-4 FG, 5-6 3Pt, 1-2 FT) and was lights out from three-point land in the losing effort, as the focus now shifts to Game Two, which will be back on the same floor on Sunday at 12.30pm CET.

Even start

The first quarter was neck and neck and tied at 14 until the two-minute mark. That’s when Real Madrid first pulled away as Rodríguez, Fernández and Andrés Nocioni drained back to back to back three-pointers and Fernández dropped a pair of free throws, all in less than ninety seconds, to put The Whites up by ten at 27–17. Hezonja nailed a three of his own with a half second remaining to bring Barça within seven at the end of the quarter.

FC Barcelona tightened up their perimeter defense in the second frame in an attempt to keep Fernández and Rodríguez at bay. And it worked, but when Barça went on offense, they were forced into low-percentage shots and had too few opportunities in the paint to make up the difference.

The Madrid lead fluctuated between five and seven points for the better part of the quarter, and that’s where it stood — at six exactly — when Huertas dialed up an NBA-distance three from out beyond the top of the key to make it 44–38 with 55 seconds remaining in the half.

But, following a Madrid timeout, Fernández got those points right back with a trey of his own, stretching the lead to nine.

A mad scramble at midcourt on the ensuing possession saw the ball end up in the hands of Meciej Lampe, who drove for a lay up just before the shot clock expired. Scoring was even in the second quarter as the intermission came with a seven-point difference on the scoreboard, 47–40.

Barcelona shot a respectable 50 percent (9-18 FG) from the field in the first half, but only 43 percent (6-14) from beyond the arc. Real Madrid rode 65 percent field goal shooting (13-20 FG) and went five for eleven from three-point territory while also making six out of eight from the line.

Low-scoring 2nd half

After the break both teams shot horrendously from the field. In the opening eight minutes of the third quarter only 14 total points were scored — seven each, as Barça struggled to take advantage of a rare Madrid cold spell. Both ends of the court saw unnecessarily off-balance shots and poor selection, and even when players were open, the ball clanged off the rim again and again.

Even after a basket by Hezonja in the final minute of the quarter, which brought the Catalans to within five at 56-51, another strategic timeout by Real Madrid served its purpose as Rodríguez broke the huddle by sinking a high arcing three, deflating a Barça squad that had just sniffed its first glimmer of hope since the opening quarter. Navarro’s two free throws made it 59-53 heading into the final period.

Hezonja money

In the span of a minute, Ante Tomic, who only managed one field goal all night, missed two close-range shots while Real Madrid went on a 7-0 run on a three-pointer from Jonas Maciulis and baskets from Felipe Reyes, who scored 12 points (5-9 FG, 2-4 FT) and Rodriguez to take a 66-55 lead — their biggest of the game — with five minutes to play.

Barça, however, were not done. Hezonja dropped three threes in a three-minute span, while Madrid suddenly looked lost, and Justin Doellman and Tibor Pleiss added baskets as, somehow, Barça clawed back to within two at 70-68, with under two minutes to play. Rodríguez and the Alaska native Brad Oleson traded baskets but Fernández sunk two from the line to put the Meringues up four.

Hezonja, who had been a workhorse all night and led the Catalans with 25 minutes played, missed a chance for his sixth three of the game and Rodríguez followed by making one of two from the line. Thomas Satoransky then threw away a pass on Barça’s next possession and the Catalans were forced to foul immediately when Madrid inbounded at midcourt with 15 seconds on the clock. Rodríguez proceeded to drop two more free throws and Madrid were all of a sudden back up by seven points. Reyes made one more from the line and Satoransky threw down an inconsequential dunk to set the final score in stone, 78-72.

Força Barça
Força Barça

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