Basketball / Barca trashes Maccabi as protesters rush court
Beefed-up security removes seven hecklers from arena
FC Barcelona trampled over a visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv squad 85-65 last night in a Euroleague Top 16 contest nearly overshadowed by spectators' political protests. The defeat is Maccabi's first in the round and leaves its playoff record at 1-1.
The beefed-up security force present at the game had its hands full nearly from the start.
Only a few minutes into the first quarter, a spectator ran toward the court toting a Palestinian flag and shouting condemnations at the Maccabi players over last month's Israeli military operation in Gaza.
Last week a Spanish court ordered an investigation into Israel's 2002 targeted killing of a senior Hamas operative in Gaza.
After the protester was seized and removed by security, no fewer than six other spectators followed suit in what appeared to be a pre-planned demonstration. The protesters were met by boos from the balconies as play was stopped for roughly five minutes.
The host team set the tone almost immediately, raining the first of 15 three-pointers that would turn out to be Tel Aviv's undoing by the end of the evening.
The visitors, who for their part managed only two field goals from behind the arc, attempted a fast-break, penetrating offense but were all too often thwarted by the Barcelona defense, and found themselves trailing 39-29 at the half.
A dunk from center D'or Fischer at the start of the third brought Maccabi to within six, but its fortunes only deteriorated from there, as guard Gianluca Basile added ammunition to Bar?a's three-point barrage.
The Spaniards had already opened a 14-point lead going into the fourth, and Maccabi seemed to be playing as if already on "garbage time," while the home team kept up a steady stream of long-distance threes.
Only in the closing minutes did Maccabi get its second three-pointer, as forward Omri Casspi finally located the bottom of the net.
As the closing buzzer neared, point man Carlos Arroyo was whistled for a flagrant foul and Barcelona capitalized on the foul shots to widen their lead further still.
The Puerto Rican national team member put on a particularly disappointing performance, shooting 31 percent from the field and managing only nine points and not a single assist.
Fischer, by contrast, put on an impressive show, pulling in 17 points (over a quarter of Maccabi's total), and 11 rebounds.