FC Barcelona Lassa held on to their leadership position in the Liga ACB on Sunday, but their dominance over the domestic Spanish League was challenged after a 78-73 upset loss to fourth-ranked Unicaja Malaga. This was their second defeat on the season, taking them to 10-2. Three formidable teams are hot on their heels with 9-3 records and they are Real Madrid, Baskonia-Gasteiz Vitoria and the aforementioned Unicaja Malaga. In a league as competitive as this, that one-game edge can disappear in the blink of an eye, possibly even before 2019 is ushered in.
The game itself was relatively close and Unicaja Malaga went to the outside for long-range bombs as their equalizer, going 11-for-29 from downtown. It also did not help Barcelona’s cause that they shot a poor 6-of-10 from the free throw line, which turned out to be crucial missed opportunities considering that the game was settled by a five-point margin in favor of the hosts.
Kyle Wiltjer anchored Unicaja’s offense with a game-high 14 points, going 4-of-9 from deep to put up most of his points on the box score.
In other news, their El Clasico rivals Real Madrid suffered a similar fate in Round 12, with a stunning loss to Breogan, 84-71. It was a fortunate turn of events for Barca as their nemesis would be tied with them for first, adding even more pressure to the already stress-filled race for the playoffs.
The Upset Train did not make its final stop there. Even now third-ranked Baskonia fell at the hands of Iberostar Tenerife, 70-63. Not even the 18-point, 10-rebound double-double performance of Tornike Shenegalia was enough to carry squad from Vitoria to victory. The difference-maker for Tenerife was their advantage in 3-point shooting in the game. They connected on 11 3-pointers, compared to just a total of five by Baskonia.
Sometimes humbling losses like these,
even especially for top teams, will help them strive and push harder for greatness moving forward. Do not expect them to be pushovers in the coming weeks, now that they have chips on their shoulders as they try to find their way back on the path to victory.