Brandon Paul led Club Joventut Badalona to a 71-70 victory over visiting CAI Zaragoza with a game winning three pointer in the ACB on Sunday afternoon.
Paul had a strong first half with 15 points (four of them three pointers) and two steals, but missed his first five attempts from beyond the arc in the third and fourth quarters. The dip in accuracy was perhaps due to both fatigue and the two teams playing more defensively in the latter half of the game.
Despite this, neither his team mates nor the crowd gave up on the Illinois native. Opting to go to him in crunch time and scoring the clutch three to put La Penya a point ahead with only 0.6 of a second left on the clock right before he got swarmed by jovial team mates as the crowd chanted MVP.
After the game Paul commented on his performance and the game winner:
“The first half my shots fell. In the second half they weren’t really going in. But my team mates had confidence in me and got me the ball at the right time.”
In the final play of the game Ousmane Drame’s deflection of Zaragoza’s inbound was enough to run down those three fifths of a second and guarantee the game.
Paul finished the game with 22 points in total, but remarked on how he and the team dealt with the second half frustrations as shot after shot refused to fall:
“By just trying to get defensive stops. We picked up our defensive intensity. I was trying to look for other ways of scoring and getting to the basket.”
After two closely contested quaters Badalona and Zaragoza came into the third quarter playing ultra defensively, with both teams racking up the majority of their blocks in those 10 minutes. The quarter was notably low scoring and ended 10-6 in the home sides favour giving them a lead going into the fourth. Consistent with the rest of the game, the main source of excitement offensively came from Paul as he exploited an open lane in front of the Zaragoza basket to land a one handed dunk along the baseline and got the crowd on their feet.
This loss drops Zaragoza to a 1-4 record in the ACB but are second in their Eurocup group with a 3-1 record, their only loss thus far to group leader and fellow ACB team Valencia Basket. Steven Jelovac led scoring for the visitors with 19 points. Free throw shooting was a big part of what kept Zaragoza in the game, shooting 19 of their 22 attempts from the line (86%) while the hosts only shot 65%.
Badalona however shot 31 percent from long range scoring 12 threes whilst Zaragoza only put away three of their three point attempts on 16 percent beyond the arc. On top of this the home side made sure to grab boards, with Albert Miralles getting no less than six of his seven rebounds on the offensive end.
This win puts Joventut at fifth or sixth in the table, depending on the result of Real Madrid’s game this evening, with a 4-1 record and in a good position early in the season.