BASKETBALL

Written-off Barça takes ACB final to fifth game

Superb defensive tactics help champion extend series to do-or-die climax

Real Madrid´s Kyle Singler (l) and Sergio Llull (c) try to prevent Barcelona's Juan Carlos Navarro from scoring.
Real Madrid´s Kyle Singler (l) and Sergio Llull (c) try to prevent Barcelona's Juan Carlos Navarro from scoring.ALBERTO MARTÍN (EFE)

Perhaps written off too soon after their drubbing in game three, Barcelona responded like a champion in the fourth match of the ACB playoff final series Wednesday night. The Catalans scored a 75-81 victory over Real Madrid to deny it the Liga title on its Palacio de Deportes home turf. The result means this year’s winner will now be decided by Saturday’s fifth and final game, back at the Palau Blaugrana.

With the help of a superb Erazem Lorbek, the visitor turned a potential funeral into a heroic night. Coach Xavi Pascual’s surprise move was playing a zone defense from the first Real attack. The aim was to make the Real offense bite off more than it could chew and protect the rebound. Once in possession, control of the game moved to the other side of the court with long attacks, Barcelona maintaining possession as long as possible. It was a tactic that worked well.

Real moved forward uncomfortably, driven by Kyle Singler, Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodríguez, but without the fluidity it had shown before. With the introduction of Jaycee Carroll, a nightmare if he’s on a streak, Barça pulled its second rabbit out of the hat: a 1-4 zone defense with Víctor Sada blocking him completely to reach halftime 34-39 up.

The basic parameters remained the same after that. A trio of three-pointers by Lorbek seemed to finish Real off with three-and-a-half minutes to go (64-76). Nikolas Mirotic’s desperate reaction put this slightly in doubt, but was definitively silenced by the umpteenth display of Lorbek’s talent.

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