Zenit overwhelms Barcelona to tie series
Zenit St Petersburg tied its playoffs series with FC Barcelona with a dominant 74-61 home victory on Friday night. Zenit, which was in front all the way, raced into a double-digit lead with an explosive start, and held a 36-26 half-time advantage after a low-scoring second quarter. Zenit further stretched the lead after the break, taking the margin past 20 points early in the fourth quarter, and Barca never got the deficit down to single digits. Kevin Pangos was the chief inspiration for the home team, combining 20 points and 8 assists. Alex Poythress added 12 points, while Austin Hollins and Tarik Black both scored 11. Nick Calathes led Barcelona with a season-high 19 points, and Cory Higgins added 13. The decider will take place at Palau Blaugrana on Tuesday.
Zenit had a fast start through Black in penetration and Hollins from deep, before a Calathes three-pointer got Barca on the scoreboard. A three-point play and a powerful dunk from Poythress kept the hosts ahead, despite a pair of baskets from Higgins. Poythress unleashed another slam followed by a jumper to give Zenit a double-digit lead, and Pangos added a floater to make it 23-9. Nikola Mirotic stopped a 8-0 run from close-range, before KC Rivers and Leandro Bolmaro traded inside scores to make it 25-13 after ten minutes. Billy Baron extended the lead early in the second, and Rivers kept the advantage in double figures, 30-17, with a three-pointer as defenses dominated. Mirotic answered with his own threeball, before Will Thomas and Kyle Kuric scored underneath the basket. Calathes pulled it back to 32-24, before driving layups from Baron and Calathes made it 36-26 at the break.
Hollins from deep and Pangos with a floater stretched the lead to 41-26 after the interval, and a layup from Calathes was bettered by a three-point play from Pangos, who soon scored again in penetration for a 46-30 lead. Calathes boosted Barca with a corner three and Bolmaro hit from mid-range, but Black made a three-point play and Pangos added a triple to keep Zenit in control, 53-36. A turnaround jumper from the red-hot Pangos and a putback-and-one from Black made it 58-38 at the end of the third. Black and Rivers kept Zenit totally in charge early in the fourth. Calathes and Rolands Smits both scored twice to pull Barca back to 63-51, with 5 minutes left, but Poythress from close range and Pangos with a long two settled Zenit, 69-53 with 3 minutes to go. A couple of baskets from Kuric gave Barca a glimmer of hope, but a triple from Billy Baron secured the win.
Poythress shines off the bench
With Arturas Gudaitis and Mateusz Ponitka already out, Zenit appeared to have early problems in the big man position when Tarik Black picked up two quick fouls. But that proved to be a blessing in disguise as Alex Poythress came off the bench to make a huge instant impression, scoring 9 points in 4 minutes to power his team into a double-digit lead.
Zenit dominates the boards
Poythress was one of the reasons Zenit totally dominated the boards, with the home team winning the rebounding battle 40-26. Will Thomas led the way with 9 rebounds, supported by Black (6) and Poythress (5). Nikola Mirotic topped Barca’s rebounding with 6 and Nick Calathes grabbed 5, but no other Barca player had more than 2 boards.
Mirotic struggles again
Although he competed well under the boards, the game saw Mirotic continue to struggle in the scoring department as he netted just 7 points on 2-of-11 field goal shooting. Barca’s leading scorer during the regular season with 16.9 points per game, Mirotic has averaged just 9.0 points in the playoffs.
Barca squashed beyond the arc
Discounting Calathes, who made 3 of his 7 three-point attempts, Barca went 1-of-12 from long-range, with Zenit’s swarming defense preventing the visitors from getting good looks outside the arc.
Game 5 will take place back in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, 9pm CET to decide which team advances to the Final Four.
Friday, April 30, 2021