Winterthur FC Barcelona stuns 76ers in exhibition

BARCELONA, Spain -- The Philadelphia 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.

What a way to start a European vacation.

The Sixers lost to the Spanish club 109-104 on Thursday night, just the third time an overseas club has beaten an NBA team since the league began sanctioning international competitions in 1987.

Still, the exhibition loss didn't seem to dampen the American visitors' 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."

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-13 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.

Coming off a lackluster season in which they missed the playoffs, Philadelphia struggled to stay a step ahead of FC Barcelona, a team that ranked third in the Spanish league last season. The score was 51-51 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.