The night it all went wrong for Barça. PHOTO: V. SALGADO - FCB

For the second season in a row, Barça will be in the third place playoff at the Euroleague Final Four. Real Madrid were just too good at the Mediolanum Forum in Milan tonight, and go on to face Macabbi Tel Aviv in the final. Barça started well enough, but squandered a series of free throws, allowing Madrid to slide ahead (37-45). The third period finished 11-28 and there was no way back for the Catalans. It all ended 62-100 in a game in which Barça simply weren’t up to the task.

Opening streaks

There were no signs of the crushing defeat in the first few minutes of play. Huertas was sensational, Papanikolaou and Ante Tomic were both finding the basket, and 10 in a row for Barça made it 12-4. Madrid coach Laso called timeout, and his decision to send on Sergio Rodríguez proved to be the right one. Madrid bounced straight back to make it 13-12.

The free throws were letting Barcelona down, and Rodríguez pounced on the chance to make it 18-19, but thanks to two frees from Tomic, the half ended at 20 each. So far, there was little to pick between the sides.

Fatal moments

The second period saw a serious lapse in Barça’s play. Madrid weren’t exactly playing brilliant basketball either, but they were finding the basket while absolutely nothing was going right for the Catalans. Amazingly, from 20-20 it switched to 20-31. A timeout sorted out much of the trouble in attack, but there were no improvements in defence. Navarro and Papanikolaou were scoring, but so were Madrid, stretching their lead to 32-45. Oleson and Tomic responded by sharing five points, and by the break there was still plenty of hope with the score at 37-45.

Powerless

Barça clearly wanted to start mounting a comeback, but threes from Fernández and Darden totally stunned them. The score now 38-53, Pascual needed to find solutions, and the gap was narrowed to nine, 44-53, on the back of a 6-0 streak. But whatever Barça did, Madrid did better, and in the blink of an eyelid it was 47-63. After half an hour it was 48-73, and all that could save Barça now would be a miracle like the one Macabbi had produced in the previous semi-final.

Growing pains

Barça really needed to find some magic, but the magic didn’t appear. Instead, Real Madrid were able to play at ease, and with six minutes to go it was 52-88. There was absolutely nothing left for FCB to play for. They had picked the very worst moment of all to play their poorest basketball. To rub salt into the wounds, Madrid were able to celebrate reaching 100 points just seconds before the end. They are off to the final, where they will hoping to make amends for defeat in London last year.