Barcelona beats UNICS in OT instant classic
In an instant classic, FC Barcelona rallied from 20 down to force overtime and beat UNICS Kazan 111-109 at Palau Blaugrana on Wednesday. Barcelona improved to 15-2 in the standings and reached the regular season's halfway mark in first place, while UNICS dropped to 10-7. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 28 points, including 3 free throws to tie the game with 15.5 seconds left in regulation. Kyle Kuric added 24, Rokas Jokubaitis had 15, Dante Exum 13 and Nico Laprovittola 12. Lorenzo Brown paced UNICS with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. John Brown III added 21 points, Isaiah Canaan 20, Mario Hezonja 18 and Tonye Jekiri 10. John Brown and Hezonja helped UNICS to a 37-46 halftime lead before Lorenzo Brown scored 13 points in the third quarter, during which the margin reached 20. UNICS led 73-88 with 4 minutes left in regulation, but Exum, Kuric and Mirotic rallied Barcelona to force overtime, 94-94. Kuric scored 10 points in the extra session to give Barcelona a 111-109 lead and Lorenzo Brown missed from beyond the arc at the buzzer.
Hezonja got UNICS going with back-to-back three-pointers and an acrobatic alley-oop layup. Mirotic and Brandon Davies each scored in the paint and Pierre Oriola matched John Brown's baseline jumper with a backdoor. Dimitrii Uzinskii hit a corner triple and John Brown matched Oriola's layup with a basket inside for an 11-15 UNICS lead. Mirotic struck from downtown and Jokubaitis added a driving layup but Lorenzo Brown and John Brown kept UNICS in charge, 18-24. Rolands Smits found his first points, Laprovittola added a driving layup and Kuric struck from beyond the arc, bringing Barcelona within 27-28 after 10 minutes.
Kuric sank a jumper early in the second quarter, giving Barcelona its first lead, 29-28. John Brown scored down low, but Sertac Sanli kept the hosts ahead, 33-30. O.J. Mayo scored in the paint and John Brown dunked off a steal to give UNICS a 33-34 edge. Smits took over with a backdoor layup, but Marco Spissu hit a floater and Hezonja sank his third triple to extend the UNICS lead. Canaan hit a step-back jumper and got help from John Brown and Jekiri to make it a double-digit game, 35-45. Mirotic finished a four-chance Barcelona offense with a layup, bringing his team within 37-46 at halftime.
John Brown took over with a wild put-back basket soon after the break and followed Lorenzo Brown's three-pointer with a fast break slam for a 39-53 UNICS lead. Lorenzo Brown soon added a put-back jumper, which prompted Barcelona to stop the game at 39-55. Laprovittola sank a three-pointer, but John Brown scored down and Lorenzo Brown struck from downtown to break the game open, 43-60. Smits scored off a spin move and Mirotic hit a triple that gave the hosts hope at 48-60. Lorenzo Brown buried a jumper, Canaan and Laprovittola traded three-pointers but so did Lorenzo Brown and Hezonja for a 51-71 UNICS margin. Mirotic brought UNICS a bit closer, 57-74, after 30 minutes.
Mayo buried a three-pointer in transition early in the fourth quarter. Exum answered with a driving layup, igniting a 6-0 run that Jokubaitis capped with a fastbreak basket. Lorenzo Brown and Canaan stepped up for the visitors, but Jokubaitis and Mirotic each struck from beyond the arc to fuel Barcelona's comeback, 69-81. Canaan answered from downtown and Jekiri scored in the paint to give UNICS fresh air at 73-88 with 4 minutes remaining. Mirotic and Exum kept pushing Barcelona and Kuric sank a corner triple to make it an 8-point game. Mirotic hit free throws and Laprovittola scored off an inbounds steal to get within 84-88, with 2 minutes left. Jokubaitis erased Lorenzo Brown's steal and slam with a layup. Laprovittola and John Brown traded free throws and Kuric hit a triple to make it 91-92 Barcelona with 42.6 seconds left. Lorenzo Brown hit foul shots, but Mirotic drew a foul shooting a three and made the resulting 3 free throws to tie it at 94-94 with 15.5 seconds remaining. Lorenzo Brown missed a mid-range jumper at the buzzer.
Kuric gave Barcelona the lead early in overtime. Canaan swished a shot from beyond the arc and Hezonja buried a jumper, but Kuric and Smits gave Barcelona a 100-99 edge. After Jekiri dunked and Lorenzo Brown split free throws, Kuric struck from downtown to make it 103-102. Canaan hit free throws and banked in a close shot for a 105-106 UNICS lead with 27.6 seconds left. Sanli split foul shots and Jokubaitis took over with a driving layup that put Barcelona in charge, 108-106, with 18.0 seconds remaining. Canaan drew a foul while taking a three-point shot, but only hit one free throw. Jokubaitis and Lorenzo Brown were perfect from the foul line for a 110-109 edge with 6.1 seconds left. Kuric split foul shots and Lorenzo Brown missed from downtown at the buzzer, allowing the Barcelona fans to celebrate a win.
Hezonja finally returns to Palau
UNICS Kazan forward Mario Hezonja last played for FC Barcelona during the 2014-15 season and had not returned to Palau Blaugrana until Wednesday night's Round 17 fixture. In the meantime, Hezonja played in the NBA and for Turkish Airlines EuroLeague powerhouse Panathinaikos OPAP Athens before joining UNICS over the summer. Hezonja was received with a warm ovation by Barcelona fans and started the game on fire with back-to-back three-pointers and a wild alley-oop layup. He finished the game with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for a PIR of 18.
Barcelona remains undefeated against UNICS
FC Barcelona and UNICS Kazan met at Palau Blaugrana in Round 17 for the teams' first showdown since the 2016-17 campaign and Barcelona once again prevailed. Before this game, Barcelona was 7-0 against the Russian powerhouse in EuroLeague action - and in European competitions - as the teams have not crossed paths anywhere else. Barcelona downed UNICS twice in the 2010-11 campaign, swept the Russian powerhouse in the 2012 playoffs to access to the Final Four, and also beat UNICS at home and on the road in the 2016-17 regular season.
Barcelona ties EuroLeague free-throw record
FC Barcelona buried 42 free throws in its Round 17 home win against UNICS Kazan, 111-109. By doing so, Barcelona tied the EuroLeague single-game record. It was the fourth team to reach that number. Maccabi Tel Aviv did so against Fortitudo Bologna in 2003, then it was Cibona Zagreb against Union Olimpija Ljubljana in 2006 and Panathinaikos Athens against Partizan Belgrade in 2007. Barcelona needed the fewest attempts (44) to reach this mark - Cibona took 48 free throw attempts, Maccabi 50 and Panathinaikos 53.
Wednesday, December 22, 2021