Barcelona saved its best for until the end of the season to win the Spanish Liga Endesa with an 83-81 home win over arch rival Real Madrid. The Catalan club claimed its 17th Spanish title at the Palau Blau Grana in Barcelona and ended Madrid’s season with heartbreak by winning Game 4 to take the series 3-1.
Indeed, it has been a staggering finale for the Madrid club. A season that promised so much when the team swept all before it for a 30+ game winning streak at the start of the campaign has ended with two failed finals. Sure, Los Blancos won the Spanish Cup, but it is scant consolation for losing the Euroleague final to Maccabi Tel Aviv and now the league to Barca. It is hardly the return befitting a group of players who are arguably the best assembled unit in Europe, and questions will be asked in the Spanish capital during the off season.
As for Barcelona, the club celebrates its first title since 2012 and Juan Carlos Navarro extends his honours to 8 Spanish league titles, making him the most successful player in Spain. More than just making up the numbers on the way to glory, Navarro remains an important cog in the Barcelona machine and looked a danger every time he touched the ball in Game 4.
FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, 83-81
As for the game itself, it was a typically exciting contest between the two big rivals, maybe not as flat out enthralling as Game 1 or Game 3, but a good way to end the season. Madrid set out with a game plan to defend tightly and try to find Rudy Fernandez to supply the dimes and the points. It was an early strategy that paid off as Rudy found four points from Madrid’s first 10 of the game. However, in the early throws of the first quarter Barcelona opened a 7 point cushion at 14-7. Soon the hosts extended to 18-10 and the omens were good for the Catalan outfit as each first quarter winner in the series so far had gone on to win the game. Madrid cut the 8 point deficit to six by the end of 10 minutes, but Barca still held a 25-19 lead at the first break.
Madrid responded well early in the second quarter as Felipe Reyes entered the fray and proved a thorn in Barcelona’s side. The visitors silenced the raucous crowd by clawing back to 30-27 midway through the frame as both coaches shuffled the roster with short shifts for players on the court. Brad Oleson and Alex Abrines paced Barcelona early in the second by scoring 11 of the clubs first 13 points of the stanza to keep them in the lead. Barca was looking formidable from three point range once again as the team secured 5 of its first six attempts from downtown to open a 40-31 lead. Madrid scored with a two pointer, but Marcelinho Huertas sent home from beyond the arc and claimed an offensive board to set up Ante Tomic (45-33). Real Madrid responded by getting the ball to Ioannis Bourousis more frequently in the paint and started hitting into Barca’s lead. Nikola Mirotic scored a lovely dummy basket to close the game to 45-41, capping a 0-8 run for Madrid, but traded scores before halftime sent the teams in with the score at 47-43.
Madrid slashed the lead to 2 points at the start of the second half thanks to baskets from Bourousis and Tremmell Darden (49-47). However, Barcelona was coming up with baskets at key moments in the game and Bostjan Nachbar found net from downtown to extend back to 52-47, before Tomic pushed Barcelona further to 58-49 in response to a Madrid basket. Real tactician Pablo Laso was expelled from the game with four minutes of the third stanza left, depriving Madrid of their coach and allowing Barcelona to extend to 61-49. It was a passage of the game that put Barcelona in the driving seat and on course for the title with the score at 65-57 after 30 minutes of play.
Madrid opened the fourth quarter by scoring four while keeping Barca to half that amount to put the score at 61-67. However, once again Barcelona extended to double digits thanks to Tomic (71-61) and the party atmosphere inside the arena was growing. Sergio Llull sent home from behind the arc then secured a two plus one from the charity strip to get Madrid within 4 points (71-67). Madrid snapped into action and paced with Barcelona until there was just one point in the game, with the score sitting at 73-72. Madrid finally levelled the score for the first time since 7-7 in the first quarter, but Los Blancos’ comeback was in vain as Barcelona broke and Navarro set a pass for Maciej Lampe who streamed in from the corner for a game and title winning triple.
Tomic led Barcelona with another fine performance, securing 22 points and 9 rebounds for the champions. Navarro continued to roll back the years with 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists, while Huertas set up 9 scores.
Fernandez was the go to guy for Real Madrid with 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Bourousis claimed 12 points and 7 boards in the losing effort.