Real Madrid’s season doesn’t get under way until Monday night but the opening weekend of Liga Endesa almost saw a huge upset as their arch-rivals Barcelona squeezed out a win over Valencia.
The contrasting fortunes of Barcelona in Euroleague and ACB was one of the most bizarre stories of the 2012-13 season. Barcelona were untouchable in Euroleague for most of the season but faltered early and often in domestic action. The first round of play in Spain almost saw the Blaugrana fall at home but they just about got over the line with a 76-75 win over Valenica. Justin Doellman carried the load for the visitors with 25 points and 3 rebounds while Rafa Martinez scored 17 points, including 7 from the foul line. Barcelona’s back court had no trouble creating, with Marcelinho Huertas and Juan Carlos Navarro each chipping in 4 assists, but they leaned heavily on their front court for points. Kostas Papanikolaou had 14 points in his ACB debut for Barcelona, after winning back to back Euroleague titles with Olympiacos, while Maciej Lampe had 12 points and 6 rebounds. NBA draft prospect Mario Hezonja saw 2 minutes of action for Barcelona, scoring 3 points.
It took overtime but Gran Canaria eventually recorded an upset at Saski Baskonia. The islanders got off to a hot start on the road, leading by 11 at the half but a 24-13 third frame for Baskonia leveled matters. With the sides inseparable at the end of regulation, Gran Canaria eventually took the win 99-96. Nacho Martin scored 22 points and picked up 6 boards for the victors and he was ably assisted by former Notre Dame star Ben Hansbrough who had 15 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Baskonia’s Lamont Hamilton led all scorers with 23 while Fernando San Emeterio had 18 points and 3 assists.
It was a rough road trip for Estudiantes to kick off the season. Unicaja Malaga swept the Madrid team aside 97-78. Jayson Granger had 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists for Malaga, with Zoran Dragic scoring 16 points for the victors. Domas Sabonis, son of Arvydas, had a quiet but efficient day for Malaga with 6 points on 2 of 3 shooting and 3 rebounds. Andres Miso was top scorer for Estudiantes with 23.
The final game of the opening round takes place later today as defending champions Real Madrid play host to Valladolid.