Mirotic leads Barcelona past Olympiacos
FC Barcelona stayed strong at the top of the standings by downing Olympiacos Piraeus 90-80 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday. Barcelona lifted its record to 13-3 to finish 2019 with the same record as Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes Istanbul, at least two wins ahead everyone else. Olympiacos dropped to 6-10. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 21 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Kyle Kuric added 18 points, Adam Hanga 14 and Malcolm Delaney 11. Willie Reed led Olympiacos with 15 points. Sasha Vezenkov and Kostas Papanikolaou each had 14 while Augustine Rubit added 11 for the guests. Cory Higgins and Mirotic shined early, getting help from Ante Tomic to give Barcelona a 20-12 lead after 10 minutes. Rubit and Papanikolaou rescued Olympiacos, allowing the Reds to take a 29-34 advantage in the second quarter. Mirotic and an outstanding Kuric pushed Barcelona back to a 40-39 edge at halftime. In the third quarter, five Barcelona players scored in a 12-0 run that Higgins capped with a jumper to break the game open, 56-43. Barcelona kept a 69-58 margin after 30 minutes behind an unstoppable Mirotic and extended it to 78-60 soon after that, sealing the outcome.
Georgios Printezis got Olympiacos going with a floater. Higgins answered with a driving layup and a wide-open three-pointer in transition in a 7-0 run that Mirotic capped with a six-meter jumper. Printezis scored again but he didn't find any help, while a jump-hook by Tomic gave Barcelona a 9-4 edge. Alex Abrines dunked, then Mirotic followed a layup with a three-pointer that made it 16-6. Rubit swished a jumper off an Olympiacos timeout but Barcelona kept finding easy points down low, as Tomic and Mirotic gave the hosts a 20-8 lead, which Printezis and Will Cherry cut to 20-12 after 10 minutes. Rubit kept pacing the Reds and Vezenkov added a fastbreak layup to make Barcelona call timeout game at 20-16. Brandon Davies tried to change things for Barcelona and Delaney erased Papanikolaou's triple with his own. Olympiacos got help from Taylor Rochestie and Vezenkov, who brought the Reds within 27-25. Papanikolaou struck again from beyond the arc to complete Olympiacos's comeback, 27-28. Higgins scored in penetration but Rubit had 4 points in a 0-6 run highlighted by Papanikolaou's fastbreak slam, good for a 29-34 Olympiacos lead. Mirotic and Adam Hanga stepped up for the hosts but consecutive jumpers by Vezenkov and Reed kept Olympiacos in charge, 34-38. Kuric took over with a four-point play and added a fastbreak layup for a 40-39 Barcelona lead at halftime. Mirotic scored in close soon after the break and Hanga dunked but Reed kept Olympiacos within 44-43. Tomic hit a jump-hook, igniting a 12-0 Barcelona run in which Kuric and Hanga each struck from beyond the arc. Higgins capped it with a jumper for a 56-43 Barcelona lead. Rubit and Cherry tried to change things for Olympiacos as Barcelona head coach Svetislav Pesic was ejected due to a double technical foul. A three-point shot competition started as Mirotic, Papanikolaou, Abrines and Wade Baldwin each struck from downtown. Delaney outdid them all, however, with back-to-back triples for a 68-53 score. Antonios Koniaris joined the three-point shootout and Baldwin brought Olympiacos a bit closer, 69-58, after 30 minutes. Mirotic beat the shot clock buzzer with a tip-in early in the fourth quarter as Olympiacos kept struggling to score. Kuric downed a jumper and soon added a three-pointer that sealed the outcome, 78-60, with under 6 minutes left.
Mirotic did a little bit of everything to make sure his team added another home win. He finished the game with a monster double-double, 21 points and 15 rebounds – a new career high – hitting 6 of 9 two-point shots and 2 of 5 from downtown. He added 2 assists, a steal, a block and 5 fouls drawn for a PIR of 33.
A dunk by Reed brought Olympiacos within 44-43 early in the second half. Tomic stepped up with a jump-hook, Mirotic added a put-back basket, then Kuric and Hanga each struck from downtown in a 12-0 run that Higgins capped with a jumper. Five different players fueled a 12-0 run that gave Barcelona a comfortable lead for good, 56-43, and full control of the game.
Olympiacos missed Nikola Milutinov, the competition's best rebounder (9.3 rpg.) under the rims. Barcelona outrebounded the Reds by 38-34. Barcelona also forced Olympiacos to pick up 16 turnovers. Barcelona was perfect from the foul line, 15 of 15, for the third time this season. It previously hit 16 of 16 free throws against FC Bayern Munich and 5 of 5 against Anadolu Efes Istanbul.
Did you notice?
Ante Tomic became just the fourth player in EuroLeague history to break the 1,500-rebound mark. He grabbed his 1,500th rebound with 5:50 left in the third quarter. Felipe Reyes leads the standings with 1,782 rebounds, followed by Paulius Jankunas (1,775) and Ioannis Bourousis (1,603).
Both teams return to EuroLeague action early in 2020, playing on Thursday, January 2, in Round 17. Barcelona visits KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and its former head coach, Dusko Ivanovic, while Olympiacos hosts Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
Friday, December 27, 2019