Barca stays strong to down Bayern
FC Barcelona made it two wins out of two with a hard-earned 72-80 road victory over FC Bayern Munich at Audi Dome on Thursday night. The visitors scored the last 10 points of the first half to take control, stayed ahead after the break behind Cory Higgins, and leaned on strong defense to seal the deal. Higgins led the way with 16 points and 5 assists, while Brandon Davies scored 15 and Nikola Mirotic added 11. Bayern’s Darrun Hilliard topped all scorers with 18 points, with DeShaun Thomas (14) and Augustine Rubit (13) also scoring in double digits. Barca improved to 2-0, while Bayern is still waiting for its first win at 0-2.
The early stages were closely contested, as Bayern enjoyed success inside through Thomas and Rubit, while Davies scored close to the basket and Nick Calathes struck from deep for the visitors. A triple from Rubit stretched Bayern’s lead to 13-7, but Rokas Jokubaitis scored 6 points in a row to tie it up. Nick Weiler-Babb sent the hosts in front from the foul line, but Jokubaitis continued his hot streak with a three-pointer to make it 15-16 after 10 minutes. Hilliard and Kyle Kuric both scored 5 fast points early in the second quarter and Hilliard kept on pacing Bayern with a deep strike. Nigel Hayes-Davis made it 26-27 midway through the second as the lead continued to change hands and two baskets from Mirotic plus a three from Davies kept Barca in front. Rubit maintained his strong display to make it 33-34, but 4 points from Hayes-Davis and a Mirotic triple helped give the visitors a 33-44 lead at halftime.
Corey Walden opened the second half scoring from deep and Thomas added an inside basket, but Barca stiffened its defense and Calathes hit a triple to restore a double-digit lead, 38-49. Ognjen Jaramaz and Pierre Oriola traded inside scores, before Higgins struck a long two and Kuric added a three for a 41-56 edge. Walden and Higgins scored in penetration, and Higgins stayed hot with free throws and a triple for a 47-63 advantage with three quarters elapsed. Rubit pulled Bayern closer and Zan Sisko hit a three-pointer to make it 52-63. Davies reignited Barca’s offense and Rolands Smits struck from beyond the arc. Weiler-Babb kept Bayern hoping from mid-range, but Mirotic kept the visitors at a safe margin. Thomas hit from deep to pull Bayern to 60-71 with 4 minutes remaining and two dunks from Othello Hunter plus another Thomas basket made it even closer, 68-74, with a minute to play, but good defense and free throws did the rest for Barca.
Barca’s decisive burst
For 18 minutes, the first half was very closely contested with neither team able to establish a decent advantage and the lead regularly changing hands. But then Barca went on a 0-10 surge to take a double-digit lead into the locker room, grabbing the momentum of the game for good. Nigel Hayes-Davis made a couple of two-pointers during that run, Nikola Mirotic struck from beyond the arc and Brandon Davies did the rest from the foul line.
Barca put up outstanding shooting numbers from the field, making 18 of 27 two-point attempts (66.7%) and 9 of 18 from beyond the arc. Unsurprisingly, that included last season’s most accurate three-point shooter, Kyle Kuric, making 2 of his 3 attempts. The visiting team also had plenty of trips to the foul line and made decent use of those with 17 of 21 free throws made.
Barca star Mirotic missed both games against Bayern last season, and the German team took full advantage to claim a pair of victories. But on this occasion, the power forward was available and played a key role by scoring 11 points – with 7 of those coming as his team took control towards the end of the first half. Mirotic now averages 16.0 points per game against Bayern and has a 4-1 career record against Thursday’s vanquished opponent.
Thursday, October 7, 2021