Barcelona holds off Baskonia at home
FC Barcelona took another step closer to qualifying for the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs by downing TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz 71-57 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday, which was head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius's 45th birthday. Barcelona improved to 20-8 in the regular season standings to stay in first place, two victories above all other teams. Meanwhile, Baskonia dropped to 14-14 and has three more losses than the eighth ranked team, Zenit St Petersburg (16-11). Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 18 points and Cory Higgins added 13. Baskonia got 12 points from Youssoupha Fall and 11 from Rokas Giedraitis. Barcelona led 25-4 after 10 minutes but Baskonia rallied to tie it at 40-40. A 7-0 run gave Barcelona the lead for good, 47-40, and three-pointers by Adam Hanga, Higgins and Mirotic sealed the outcome in crunch time.
Mirotic's jump hook and Artem Pustovyi's jumper got Barca a 4-0 lead. Giedraitis and Nick Calathes traded floaters and Leo Bolmaro struck from downtown to boost the hosts' margin to 9-2. Higgins took over with an and-on layup and a bomb from downtown that broke the game open, 15-2. Mirotic capped Barca's 18-2 run with a corner triple before Fall scored down low to revive Baskonia. Mirotic scored a put-back, Brandon Davies added a three-point play and Hanga made it a 21-point game, 25-4, after 10 minutes. Fall had a close-in basket and dunk to spark Baskonia's comeback. His floater and another dunk went down before Giedraitis and Achille Polonara each scored inside and Pierria Henry added consecutive driving layups. Tonye Jekiri capped Baskonia's 0-16 run with a tip-in, bringing the visitors within 30-26, although Mirotic would add 3 points to Barcelona tally before halftime. Polonara dunked right after the break. Alex Abrines followed a triple with a jumper, getting help from Higgins to boost Barcelona's lead to 40-31. It didn't last long, as Giedraitis hit a running hook and a three-pointer and Fall scored in the paint for a 0-9 Baskonia run that tied the score at 40-40. Mirotic stepped up with 5 quick points and Davies dunked to make the guests call timeout at 47-40. Jekiri threw one down before Zoran Dragic and Calathes traded triples to fix the score at 50-45 after 30 minutes. Davies scored in the paint and Hanga stopped the show with a huge one-handed put-back slam but Jekiri and Giedraitis kept Baskonia within 54-49 in the fourth quarter. Alec Peters scored 5 quick points but Kuric downed a jumper and Hanga, Higgins and Mirotic each struck from beyond the arc to restore a double-digit Barcelona lead, 65-54, with over 3 minutes left. Baskonia kept trying but the hosts cruised to a well-deserved win, handing Coach Jasikevicius the perfect birthday present.
Nikola Mirotic was once again Barcelona's main pillar at both ends of the floor. He finished the game with 18 points on solid shooting percentages (57.1% 2FG, 66.7% 3FG, 100% FT), adding 10 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block for a PIR of 26.
Barcelona led 52-47 and found an unexpected go-to guy in Adam Hanga, who followed an outstanding put-back slam with a three-pointer. Kyle Kuric hit a jumper, then Cory Higgins and Nikola Mirotic each buried one apiece from downtown to seal the outcome, 65-54, with 3 minutes left.
Three-point shots made the difference in the entire game, not just in crunch time. Barcelona hit 9 of 21 three-pointers (42.9%) while Baskonia could hit just 4 in 15 attempts (26.7%). Barcelona was perfect from the free throw line (8-of-8) for the first time since December 2019.
Did you know?
Baskonia's 4 first-quarter points were an all-time low in its 513-game EuroLeague run. It previously scored 6 first-quarter points three times. Its 21-point deficit at quarter's end was also the highest in its EuroLeague run.
Both teams return to action next week as Barcelona visits Real Madrid in another EuroLeague edition of El Clásico on Thursday, March 11. Baskonia hosts FC Bayern Munich on Friday, March 12.
Friday, March 5, 2021