On Saturday, perhaps the marquee matchup on the ACB slate – if for historical significance only – will be the FC Barcelona vs. Unicaja match. The league’s official website has quite the extensive collection of facts ‘n’ figures about this match and the 15-year record of meetings between these two clubs, of which BallinEurope attempted to extract the most useful bits.
The vital stats
The game tips off in Barcelona (you can watch it live online at ACB 360). Barça attempts to continue its home-winning streak, now at 28 games. Unicaja is riding a three-game win streak in the ACB, its second such this season.
Jimenez and Navarro: Team Spain’s last two captains face off
Carlos Jimenez passed Spain’s national team captaincy baton to former Memphis Grizzlies/current Blaugrana player Juan Carlos Navarro this past summer. With Navarro at the head, Spain took the 2009 Eurobasket title. Of course, under Jimenez, the Spainards took gold in Japan at the FIBA World Championship in 2006.
At present, Jimenez and Navarro hold the top two positions in terms of national caps among active players: Jimenez has played with the national time some 171 times in his career, while Navarro has 153 international games to his credit. The top 10 runs as follows (in parentheses is listed the player’s current team).
Carlos Jiménez, Unicaja: 171 caps
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona: 153
Jorge Garbajosa, Real Madrid: 149
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers: 112
José Calderón, Toronto Raptors: 101
Rudy Fernandez, Portland Trail Blazers: 96
Carlos Cabezas, BC Khimki Moscow region: 78
Alex Mumbrú, Bizkaia Bilbao Basket: 74
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: 65
Raül López, BC Khimki Moscow region: 63
Berni Rodríguez, Unicaja: 57.
Twenty-eight straight for Barça at Palau Blaugrana
Including all competition in ACB games – regular-season and playoffs – FC Barcelona has a 28-game win streak going at home: This represents 15 months without a home loss. Barça is also looking to tie Unicaja’s record, set last season, of going an entire 16-game home slate undefeated; they’re currently 14-0 at home with this game and one against Bilbao Bizkaia yet to play.
In the aforementioned 15-month period, one only team has managed to win in Barcelona at all, that being Real Madrid in what was ultimately demonstrated to be an anomalous game two of the Euroleague playoffs. In the past two seasons of European competition, Regal FC Barcelona is 20-2 at home, with a playoff loss to Baskonia the sole other defeat.
Barcelona is also 7-0 in the last seven meetings with Unicaja at the Palau; the last time Unicaja won there was early in the 2005-06 regular season.
Speaking of which…
That week 10 meeting in 2005 between the teams is often cited as one of the most spectacular ACB games of the 2000s. The final score was 115-104 – with no overtimes and FIBA-standard 10-minute quarters! – while six Unicaja players scored at least 14 points. The 115 points remain the most any Unicaja team has ever scored in ACB play.
From the barnburner, six players have remained with their clubs: Jordi Trias, Victor Sada, Roger Grimau, Gianluca Basile and Navarro are still with Barcelona, while Berni Rodriguez continues to carry the flag for Unicaja.
Happy 15th Anniversary!
Next May will mark the 15th anniversary of the memorable meeting between Barcelona and Unicaja in the ACB finals. That series ultimately went to Barça, three games to two, but could easily have flipped Unicaja’s way for want of a single three-pointer.
With seconds remaining in game four, U.S. player Mike Ansely took and made a two-point shot rather than a potential game-winning three; the (mis)fire thereby allowed Barcelona to win by one and forced a game five. Said Barcelona clincher is remembered as the final game in the career of Juan Antonio San Epifanio.
ACB notes that, from the rosters of those two 1994-95 teams, only Darryl Middleton is still active – with LEB team Sant Josep de Girona. And the head coach of that Barcelona squad was … current Unicaja coach Aito Garcia Reneses.
Barça’s inside game an Unicaja export
While the Blaugranas’ inside game is widely praised as one of Europe’s most powerful, three key members are formerly of the Unicaja system: Boniface N’dong, Fran Vazquez and Erazem Lorbek.
Team Senegal’s Ndong was with Unicaja for two seasons up to last year; he’s also played in the NBA, France, Germany and Russia. Vazquez broke into the starting lineup with Unicaja back in 2001-02 and helped the team take the Copa del Rey in 2005; since then, he’s also been with Gran Canaria 2014 and CB Girona before landing with Barcelona; Lorbek played 13 games for Unicaja back in 2006-07.
Between the three, they’ve contributed 153 games and 1,336 points combined for Unicaja in ACB play.
A bit on Aito Garcia Reneses
Last week, Reneses notched his 100th game with Unicaja, but even one of the most celebrated coaches in ACB history still has trouble at Palau Blaugrana. Though he did help DKV Joventut break its losing streak at the Palau back in 2005, Reneses is just 15-32 when visiting Barcelona in Spanish league games.
Overall, Reneses is considered perhaps the most successful active ACB coach, with nine ACB titles (all with Regal FC Barcelona), four Copas del Rey and five European club championship titles.
Xavi Pascual’s memories of Unicaja
Unicaja will always be a very special rival for FC Barcelona coach Xavi Pascual, as his Euroleague Top 16 debut as Barça coach was against Unicaja; the game was a hard-fought contest with Barcelona eking out a 64-62 thanks to fine performances by Fran Vazquez and Jaka Lakovic.
Pascual’s side has won the last three Spanish titles – the 2009 ACB championship, the 2009 Super Cup and the 2010 Copa del Rey – and Pascual is 6-3 against Unicaja with Barcelona lifetime.
Guillem Rubio’s career game
Unicaja power forward Guillem Rubio enjoyed maybe the finest game of his career against Barça last season. With Suzuki Manresa, Rubio went for 34 points in a quadruple-overtime marathon: a number that represented full-on 11% of his total season output.
Berni Rodriguez’ moment
Berni Rodriguez is on a tear: In his last five ACB games, Rodriguez has been good for 14.2 points and 4.0 assists per. (Compare that to the numbers from his first five contests, namely 3.8 and 0.8 per game.) In these five games, Unicaja is 4-1. An important note here, too, is that Rodriguez has topped 20 points on three occasions this season: The team is 3-0 in those matches.
For the season, Rodriguez is averaging 7.8 ppg and 7.1 apg, top marks for him in his 11-year career.
Ricky Rubio-Reneses Rumble, part III
The Saturday match will represent just the third time the Spanish neo-legend and the Spanish established-legend face off on opposite sides of the court. The two first met in week two of last season, when Unicaja handled DKV Joventut, 79-70, in Badalona despite Rubio’s 13 points and seven assists.
What is important about this particular bit of the weekend clash is that Reneses has much to do with Rubio’s development: Rubio has played 104 games with Reneses’ teams, including 96 with Joventut and eight with Team Spain (in 2008, when he became the youngest international basketball tournament medalist ever).
Numbers and trivia
• Overall, the teams have met in regular-season play 78 times. The overall split is Barcelona 56, Unicaja 22. In Barcelona, it’s 32-10 in favor of the home team.
• Including all games played in 2009-10, FC Barcelona is now 50-5 overall; three losses came in the ACB regular season (at Gran Canaria 2014, at Valencia, at Lagun Aro GBC) with two in Euroleague (at Partizan Belgrade, vs. Real Madrid). In the five losses, Barcelona averaged 62.6 points per game, almost 17 fewer than the team’s overall average this season.
• The lowest point total achieved by Unicaja this season was the 57 points the team managed in a 63-57 week ten loss to … you guessed it, FC Barcelona.
• Though FC Barcelona is 11 games better than Unicaja on the ACB table (with a record of 27-3 against Unicaja’s 16-14), Unicaja has scored just five total points fewer. The teams are nos. 1 and 2 in scoring in the league.
• FC Barcelona is currently no. 1 in the ACB in points allowed (65.0 per game), assists, player rating, two-point field goal percentage, blocks, and, of course, record. Barça also has this season’s single-game highs for points scored (114, vs. Meridiano Alicante) and points allowed (45, vs. Suzuki Manresa).
• Carlos Jimenez and Joel Freeland, Unicaja’s top two players, have an absolutely identical overall rating: 384 cumulative points for a 13.2 per game average.
• Ricky Rubio, Lubos Barton, Robert Archibald and Reneses were all with DKV Joventut for the 2005-06 season.
• Berni Rodriguez’ very first game in ACB play was against FC Barcelon a in the 1999-2000; Barça beat his Unicaja team, 74-62.
• While with Baskonia, Pete Mickael was a nightmare for Unicaja. In the 2007-08 semifinals, Mickael scored a layup with 2.6 seconds remaining to eliminate the home team from the playoffs. A few months later, in the next Copa del Rey, Rodriguez’ basket was decisive in the final against Unicaja:
• The duel between Unicaja’s Jiri Welsch and Barça’s Lubos Barton represents a contest of the two most important Czech players of recent years.
• Three players in this game were chosen in the 2002 NBA Draft: Welsch (no. 16 overall, Golden State Warriors from Philadelphia 76ers); Archibald (no. 31, Memphis Grizzlies); and Navarro (no. 39, Washington Wizards). Other NBA draftees playing in the game include David Andersen, John Dixon, Marcus Haislip, Mario Kasun, and Milos Vujanic.
• In his last four games (two in Euroleague, two in ACB), Navarro has gone for 22.5 per game and has been good for exactly four three-pointers in each game.
• Omar Cook looks poised to take the ACB’s “Best Passer” award for 2009-10; at 6.03 assists per game in ACB play, he’s 0.99 apg better than the second-best in the category, Baskonia’s Marcelinho Huertas. Cook faces off this week against the 2009 Best Passer winner in Ricky Rubio.
• In the last two games, Lorbek has gone for 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per.
• Carlos Jimenez is the top Spanish rebounder in the ACB at 5.6 per game, good for 12th-best overall in the league.
• Last week’s match against Lagun Aro saw the end to Ricky Rubio’s streak of 26 consecutive games with at least one steal.
• N’dong needs 25 more points for 1,000 career in the ACB; Basile needs 16 to reach 1,500 in Spain. Mickael needs two assists to hit 150 total in career ACB play, while Trias needs four rebounds to hit the cool 1,000 mark. Eight defensive rebounds would give Carlos Jimenez 3,000 in ACB play. Ricky Rubio’s looking for four rebounds to reach 400 total and four steals for 300 total.
FC Barcelona-Unicaja Malaga tips off tomorrow night at 7.30pm local time. And next week in the ACB: Madrid vs. Baskonia for sole possession of second place!