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PHOTO: ARXIU FCB.

Barça Regal lost in what probably is the most bittersweet loss in recent history in Siena tonight. It was a bitter defeat because Barça had the game under complete control up until the beginning of the fourth quarter, leading by 15 points and outplaying Montepaschi. At the same time, sweet because the team managed to preserve the edge in the global average tiebreaker against the Italian side, therefore allowing the team to secure top sport in the group with one game left to play in the group stages.

Thrilling start

The visitors took advantage of their superiority in the paint and put distance between themselves and Montepaschi. Barça's physical dominance worked, and by the second minute Barça had a 2-8 lead. Despite the brilliant start from Barça Regal, Montepaschi managed to stay alive thanks to three consecutive triples from Zizis, the Italian teams’ biggest star filling the void left by McAlebb. Igor Rakocevic also did his part in the Italian reaction, taking Montepaschi past Barça at the end of the first quarter (23-20).

The flow of the game slows down

Barça’s chances of taking the match hinged on stiffening up their defensive play; they did it. In a ruckus atmosphere, Pascual’s men denied the Italian’s the basket for four minutes. Finally, the Italians got on the second quarter scoreboard with a fortunate triple that drew both teams level at 25 (min. 14). The attacks were long and both teams were getting more intense and harsher in their play. Navarro, who was having a tough time, didn’t score in a first half that ended 35-36 thanks to an improbable triple from Aradori.

Incredible triple from Ingles and clear advantage

An incredible Erazem Lorbek got Barça off to a fantastic start at the beginning of the third quarter, and Montepschi collapsed on offence. The Italians were forced to call a timeout to stop the Azulgrana onslaught (38-43, min 23). Navarro, playing his bicentennial match in the Euroleague, started scoring from the free throw line, which helped the visitors put even more distance between themselves and a nervous home team (45-54, min 29). Barça’s subs started to make a difference as well and Barça’s largest lead was set when Joe Ingles hit an amazing three-pointer from half court at the buzzer (47-59).

Victory escapes, qualifications ensured

Barça Regal wasn’t able to hold onto their lead in the final quarter, even with a triple from Eidson at the start that silenced the stands. Despite the point deficit, Montepaschi roared back. The Italians, led by Rakocevic, swiftly brought themselves within 10 points after going on a 6-0 run (53-62, min 33). Rakocevic and Aradori brought their team within striking distance in the frenetic final minutes of the match; only two points separated the teams with two minutes left on the clock (71-73).

The game was beautiful, full of brutal intensity. Montepaschi ended up taking the game from the free throw line, plus Navarro earned a technical foul three seconds from the end. It was a night to forget that paradoxically was sweet for Barça Regal, first in their group with eight victories and one loss.

The reactions:

Xavi Pascual

“It was a beautiful game between two great teams and I think the spectators had a good time. We didn’t play well in the last five minutes of the match, so we are disappointed with the loss. We stopped playing well, we didn’t pass the ball, or play well on defence.”

“We knew that we had a +17 point advantage from the game at the Palau, and despite losing we achieved our goal of finishing first.”

Chuck Eidson

“Siena is a serious team that played well despite missing key players. They proved it in the last quarter. This is basketball and these things can happen.”

Erazem Lorbek

“We were not concentrated for the full 40 minutes and we clearly paid for it. In a game like this you cannot miss and you cannot stop playing your style. We stopped playing the way we had for the 35 minutes prior to the end and we paid for it.”

Match Stats

MONTEPASCHI, 77
FCB REGAL, 74

Montepaschi Siena (23+13+11+30): Zisis (16), Moss (5), Rakocevic (21), Michelori (2), Andersen (6) -starting five- Ress (7), Aradori (20), Stonerook (-), Thorton (-) and Carraretto (-).

FC Barcelona Regal (20+15+24+15): Huertas (4), Navarro (8), Mickeal (9), Lorbek (22), Perovic (5) -starting five- Eidson (14), Wallace (3), Sada (-), Vázquez (2), N'Dong (4) and Ingles (3).

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