76ers suffer rare NBA loss to international club
BARCELONA, Spain &
The last thing that Philadelphia wanted to do after coming off a lackluster season was to drop their exhibition opener.
Philadelphia became just the third NBA team since 1987 to lose to an overseas club when they fell 104-99 to Winterthur FC Barcelona on Thursday night. The 76ers refused to let the loss dampen their spirits.
"It's great to share basketball with the world," said Sixers' forward Chris Webber, who had 19 points. "The people here have been great."
Philadelphia could only blame itself for the defeat. The 76ers were miserable at the free-throw line, barely put up any 3-pointers and allowed six Winterthur FC Barcelona players to score in double digits.
Samuel Dalembert led Philadelphia with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, but the 76ers struggled from the foul line, hitting only 26 of 48 attempts. Allen Iverson was 3-of-12 from the field and 7-of-13 from the line.
"Barcelona has been great with the exception of the game," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "The city is beautiful. It's tough to lose to anyone, but when you miss 20-plus foul shots and make 20-plus turnovers, it can happen."
The Sixers have been in Barcelona since Sept. 29 for training camp and are one of four NBA teams taking part in the league's preseason in Europe. The exhibition game was the 76ers' opener in the NBA Europe Live tour.
Philadelphia struggled to stay a step ahead of FC Barcelona, a team that ranked third in the Spanish league last season. The game was tied at 51 at halftime, but Winterthur FC came out strong and outscored the Sixers by six points in the fourth quarter. Juan Navarro scored 18 to lead Barcelona.
Winterthur FC hit 10 of 24 3-point attempts, while Philadelphia took only eight shots from behind the arc, making three.
In Barcelona, where soccer has long been the most popular sport by far, basketball took center stage on Thursday. More than 16,000 fans, most of whom were seeing an NBA team play live for the first time, cheered so loudly for both teams that it was hard to tell who had the home court advantage.
The crowd was equally enthusiastic in cheering for the Sixers' mascot, Hip Hop, and for the teams' cheerleading squad, the Fan Patrol. Neither mascots nor cheerleaders are common in European sports.
"More NBA teams should come play here so that we'd have more opportunities to see them," said fan Arantxa Solagueren, 26, who drove three hours from Valencia for the game and was especially delighted by the cheerleaders and the spectacle. "Usually I have to watch it on TV, but this is so much better."
Also in attendance was NBA commissioner David Stern, who aims to stir up a growing European fan base with the tour.
"It's a powerful inspiration and opportunity for growth," Stern said before the game.
Also Thursday in France, the San Antonio Spurs routed Asvel Villeurbanne 115-90. Also in Europe are the Phoenix Suns in Italy and the Los Angeles Clippers in Russia, though those teams did not play Thursday.
Next week, Philadelphia and Phoenix will travel to Cologne, Germany for a two-day tournament with European teams.
The Sixers' loss was only the sixth by an NBA team to international competition.
The Toronto Raptors lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv in an exhibition game last year, 105-103 at the Air Canada Centre, the second by an NBA team in the 28 games held since the NBA sanctioned international competitions in 1987.
The Atlanta Hawks lost to the Soviet national team 132-123 in 1988 in Moscow.
Prior to that, Tel Aviv has beaten NBA teams three times in exhibition play, twice in 1984 against the Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets; and once over the Washington Bullets in 1978. All of those games were played in Israel.