2020-21Final FourSEMIFINAL A
May 28, 2021 CET: 21:00
Local time: 21:00 LANXESS ARENA

Higgins's last-second jumper lifts Barcelona

Cory Higgins made the game-winning jumper with 0.8 seconds remaining to lift FC Barcelona to its first Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game in more than a decade. Barcelona eked out a thrilling 84-82 semifinal triumph over AX Armani Exchange Milan on Friday night at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany. The victory brought Barcelona within one win of its third EuroLeague crown and set up a date with Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Sunday's championship game. Barcelona fought back from an 8-point third-quarter deficit and survived a fourth quarter that featured three lead changes and was tied entering the final minute. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 21 points, Nick Calathes tallied 17 points and 6 assists before leaving with an ankle injury. Higgins finished with 11 points and Pau Gasol scored 10 points for Barcelona, which last played in the championship game in 2010 when it won its second EuroLeague crown. Kevin Punter paced Milan with 23 points, Vladimir Micov scored 14, Shavon Shields 13 and Sergio Rodriguez 11.

Calathes opened the scoring with a tip-in before Micov got Milan on the scoreboard. However, a three by Mirotic and a coast-to-coast layup by Calathes for a 7-2 lead prompted Coach Messina to call a timeout after just 2 minutes. Milan came right back through Micov and Zach LeDay, through Higgins kept Barcelona in front. A jumper by LeDay made it 14-12 after 5 minutes. Malcolm Delaney added a three to give Milan its first lead. The lead would be short-lived. After a timeout, Mirotic and Gasol hit a jumper and a three, respectively. Punter tied it at 19-19 with free throws before Adam Hanga and Gasol scored again. Punter kept Milan close with a basket-plus-foul and another 2 free throws. Mirotic's free throws gave Barcelona a 27-24 edge after one quarter. Kyle Kuric sank a runner and Gasol blocked a shot at one end and sank a three at the other. However, Kyle Hines reacted to score after his shot was blocked and Rodriguez drained a three as Milan stayed hot on Barcelona’s tail. Brandon Davies pushed Barcelona to 37-31 only to see Shields beat the shot clock with a three. Alex Abrines came to the fore with a three and a steal that resulted in a Mirotic put-back that led to an 8-point advantage. Despite free throws by Shields, Calathes scored 5 points to give his team a double-digit lead, 49-38. A pull-up jumper and free throws by Rodriguez helped Milan trim the deficit to 51-42 at halftime.

Micov knocked down a three to start the second half and Punter also connected from downtown to bring Milan within 53-50. Punter further trimmed the gap to 2 before Abrines countered with a three. However, Punter remained hot and Shields scored inside as Milan came back to grab a 57-58 lead. Punter continued firing and Rodriguez also connected from behind the arc to lift his team to 59-67. Leandro Bolmaro, Calathes and Rolands Smits helped revive the Barcelona attack with free throws and, despite a put-back by Hines, Calathes made a pull-up three that put 67-71 on the scoreboard after three quarters. Calathes started the fourth quarter with a runner-and-one before Mirotic's put-back gave Barcelona the lead. After a timeout, LeDay beat the shot clock with a three from the corner and Shields scored in transition to make it 72-76. Kuric answered with a three-point play and Bolmaro's jumper put Barcelona up 77-76 with 5 minutes remaining. Calathes went down with an apparent ankle injury and Shields scored off a steal to tie that game at 78-78. Higgins nailed a jumper and Delaney split free throws to make it 80-79 with 2 minutes remaining. Mirotic padded the lead with foul shots, but a deep three by Punter tied things at 82-82. It all came down to the final possessions; Punter missed an open look from behind the arc and Higgins raced down the floor and buried a pull-up jumper from the top of the key for an 84-82 edge with 0.8 seconds remaining. After a Milan timeout, Punter launched a deep three and Barcelona walked away victorious.

Top performer

Nikola Mirotic scored 9 points in the first quarter and remained Barcelona's top offensive reference all game long to finish with 21 points and 6 rebounds for a performance index rating of 28. Mirotic drew 8 fouls and his 13 free throw attempts are tied for sixth-most at a Final Four game since the turn of the century.

Decisive stats

Milan was best in the league with just 11.0 turnovers per game this season, but against Barcelona's tight-fisted defense Milan coughed the ball up 17 times, which was tied for its second-most all season. Coach Messina's side also struggled when it went inside; Milan had its shots blocked 6 times and was 16 for 40 (40%) on two-pointers. In contrast, Milan did not block any shots and Barcelona made 52.8% of its two-pointers.

Higgins was the hero

Cory Higgins made the game-winner with 0.8 seconds left and in doing so gave himself the chance to become the only player this season to repeat as EuroLeague champion. Higgins won the 2019 crown with CSKA Moscow. After many of his teammates from that team were eliminated in the first semifinal, two more – Sergio Rodriguez and Kyle Hines – fell victim to Barcelona. Higgins, who also scored in double figures in all five playoff games, finished with 11 points, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

Punter stepped up for Milan

To say that Kevin Punter did well in his first Final Four game is an understatement. Punter scored 11 third-quarter points in carrying Milan from a 9-point halftime deficit to an 8-point lead. He then hit a deep three with 1:45 remaining in the fourth to tie the game at 82-82. Even though he finished with a game-high 23 points, Punter will be mostly remembered for missing his last 2 shots, however, his scoring exploits before that were a major reason Milan was in it at the end.

Cory Higgins - FC Barcelona - Final Four Cologne 2021 - EB20
Friday, May 28, 2021
Attendance: 0 (Tentative)
By Quarter1234
FC Barcelona27241617
AX Armani Exchange Milan24182911
End of Quarter1234
FC Barcelona27516784
AX Armani Exchange Milan24427182
FC Barcelona
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
0 DAVIES, BRANDON 23:00 2 1/4     1 1 2 2 1 2     3   -1
8 HANGA, ADAM 7:39 2 1/1   0/2         1       2 1  
9 BOLMARO, LEANDRO 26:11 4 1/3   2/2 1   1 3 1       1 1 7
10 SMITS, ROLANDS 10:06 3   0/1 3/4 1 3 4     1     2 2 4
16 GASOL, PAU 11:09 10 2/4 2/2     3 3 1   1 1   1   11
18 ORIOLA, PIERRE 0:40                              
21 ABRINES, ALEX 16:07 6 0/1 2/2   2 2 4   1 1     4   5
22 HIGGINS, CORY 22:34 11 4/8 1/4     2 2 1 2 2 2   4 3 8
24 KURIC, KYLE 20:38 8 2/3 0/3 4/4   1 1 1   2     3 3 4
30 CLAVER, VICTOR 8:18     0/1     1 1   1 1     1   -1
33 MIROTIC, NIKOLA 27:58 21 4/8 1/2 10/13 4 2 6   1   1   1 8 28
99 CALATHES, NICK 25:40 17 4/4 2/5 3/3 2 2 4 6   3 2     4 27
Team           2   2               2
Totals 200:00 84 19/36 8/20 22/28 13 17 30 14 8 13 6 0 22 22 94
        52.8% 40% 78.6%
Min: Minutes played; Pts: Points; 2FG M-A: 2-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); 3FG M-A: 3-point Field Goals (Made-Attempted); FT M-A: Free Throws (Made-Attempted); Rebounds: O (Offensive), D (Defensive), T (Total); As: Assists; St: Steals; To: Turnovers; Bl: Blocks (Fv: In Favor / Ag: Against); Fouls: Cm (Commited), Rv (Received); PIR: Performance Index Rating
AX Armani Exchange Milan
  Rebounds Blocks Fouls
# Player Min Pts 2FG 3FG FT O D T As St To Fv Ag Cm Rv PIR
0 PUNTER, KEVIN 21:52 23 4/6 3/6 6/7 2   2         1 1 4 21
2 LEDAY, ZACH 17:00 8 1/3 2/3   2 1 3 1   1   1 4 2 5
5 MICOV, VLADIMIR 28:35 14 4/6 1/1 3/3   1 1 1 1 2     1 4 16
10 ROLL, MICHAEL 3:52     0/1           1       2   -2
13 RODRIGUEZ, SERGIO 16:48 11 1/5 2/3 3/3   1 1 2   3   1 2 1 4
15 TARCZEWSKI, KALEB 9:22   0/1     4   4   1       2   2
23 DELANEY, MALCOLM 28:10 9 0/3 2/5 3/4   7 7 4   4   1 3 5 10
31 SHIELDS, SHAVON 29:34 13 4/10 1/3 2/2   5 5 1 3 2   1 4 2 9
32 BROOKS, JEFF 0:35                              
40 EVANS, JEREMY 10:00         1   1   1       1   1
42 HINES, KYLE 28:22 4 2/5     4 1 5 2 1 2   1 1 3 8
70 DATOME, LUIGI 5:50   0/1 0/1                   1   -3
Team           5 2 7     3         4
Totals 200:00 82 16/40 11/23 17/19 18 18 36 11 8 17 0 6 22 21 75
        40% 47.8% 89.5%

Head Coaches

FC Barcelona

"Congratulations to our players and fans. This win is a little bit strange to tell you the truth, a little bit of a game that we didn’t expect. In a sense, I thought it would be a little bit difficult to score against Milan. I thought in the two games against them we played pretty solid defense and then in the Final Four with the right mentality I thought that we would be able to stop them a little bit better. We were not able to. We always talk about details, details. That’s the most important thing for me because I believe in the end that’s what makes the difference. We did not do the details very good. We did not do the fouls very good. We understood the strong hands of the Milan players and where they were trying to get to and we were not able to stop them, which shows in our defensive numbers. It’s just too much. We dug ourselves into a hole. You have to give players a lot of credit that they kept their heads straight. We had some foul trouble at the same time, but we dug deep. The fourth quarter defensively is what changed some things. Eleven points [allowed] is a great job against Milan. But we just cannot have quarters like 24 and 29. You guys were all talking before the Final Four about Barca’s defense. Barca’s defense was not really existent today until the fourth quarter. And that’s why we struggled. We need to build something from the defense. And we have 48 hours to prepare against possibly the best offensive team in the EuroLeague. And if we don’t play top, top, top-level defense we will have a tough time.

"You have to highlight Cory Higgins who has experience in this kind of game. It’s normal that one or two players will get into foul problems as we saw with him, but Cory has the maturity to stay focussed on the bench, support the team, and later come back to the game and do what he had to. Obviously his baskets in the last quarter were very important for us and scoring the winning basket like that at a Final Four is incredible.

"Kevin Punter had a great look - obviously one of the best shooters in the EuroLeague. If it goes it, it’s very difficult. At the same time, we at least made him dribble. That was the game plan the whole time. But he’s one of the best at hitting pull-up shots. And then Cory solves the game. We move on. And we must learn.

"Everybody talks about experience this, experience that all the time. It’s very important about who is playing good at that moment. If you have been following Barcelona, Leandro Bolmaro has been one of our best players the last month, showing incredible maturity. We also see him every day in practice, where he has been one of the best players all through the year. At the beginning, we were not really giving him so many minutes and trying to go with more veteran players but this is what the great personalities do. They find a way to find their minutes. He was always the first one in our drills. He was always the first one in our competitions in practice. And the last month he’s been just playing unbelievable basketball."

AX Armani Exchange Milan

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I think it’s been an incredible run, regardless of the last game. We will have played 41 games in the end. I think we have competed against everybody. Even the only team that beat us twice, tonight we showed that we had a chance. And we move on and will try to be better next year and hopefully be back in the playoffs. And we’ll see what happens.

"I think our team played to their limit. In the second half, we decided to play our rotations with the idea of seeking athleticism and defensive performance. In my opinion, we were not at the expected level. We played with a small '5', with Micov as a '4', and we worked better on their positional offense in the low post. Barca is a team that is very difficult to play against. Today it was the same, but we managed to turn it over."

"We played a team against which it's hard to have reference points. You have prepared A or B and after the first half, you realize it would have been better to do B or C. At the break, we looked to play with the team, and see what we could change or try to do in a different manner. And I have to say that the team paid attention and showed it could be flexible. And that is something to point out because there are many teams that start and finish the game in the same way. And thanks especially to the veterans, these players have the capability to see how things can be changed. So 99 percent of that merit is theirs and I don't say that to be kind."


FC Barcelona
"You prepare these games the same way you prepare to play the game, and this is the top competition in Europe, in the Final Four, with the four best teams. So you prepare as much as you can, understanding who you are going to face and ready to go out, compete and play as hard as you can for 40 minutes. These games, in these moments, in this competition in which everything kind of comes down to winning two games, it is going to be hard. It is going to be close and difficult. Milan fought their way into the game. They took the lead in the third quarter. We fought and were able to bounce back and fought our way back in. In the end, we competed and made plays, and this is what it comes down to, making plays defensively and offensively. We did that at the end better than they did and we won. We are happy for the win because it gives us a chance to play the final on Sunday and now we have to prepare for Efes."
FC Barcelona
"I was on the bench, next to Pierre [Oriola] when Cory [Higgins] made the shot. He pulled up and the ball was going straight! From the first moment, I looked at the ball and I knew it was going in. Cory is one of those guys in these moments. He has a lot of experience playing this kind of game, all his career. When we signed him, it was for this kind of shot. We showed a lot of character. It was not easy after the third quarter, going from up 8 to down 8. It was not easy, Milan played great in the third quarter but I think we did a terrific job on defense in the last 10 minutes and that is why we won the game."
FC Barcelona
"We worked hard all game long, from the very first minute to the last. We didn't give up, played together and were focused. It was a well-deserved win for us. I am here to help the team as much as I can, in whatever it may need, and be ready to be able to play these minutes. I am very happy, above all, because we won. This is the Final Four and the previous two losses against Efes don't mean anything. Anything can happen and we have to be focused for all 40 minutes, play our game and pay attention to details. We have to rest well, eat well and stay as focused as we have been until now, putting our team first."
FC Barcelona
"It was a great, intense and dramatic game. Both teams played very well in the second half. We kind of got away from our rules on defense and they capitalized on it. But in the end we stayed together, played as a team and we came out with it. Against Efes it will be a very tough game. They are playing very well right now. They have a lot of players with talent who can score. At the end it goes back to our rules in defense and how we play as a team."
FC Barcelona
"Amazing, what can you say? This is a Final Four. You cannot relax for any moment. We were 10 points up and they just came back in the third quarter. But we found a way to win the game in the end. We really fought through even though we were not comfortable in the last quarter. I’m very happy but at the same time, we know the job is not done. There’s one more game left. And hopefully our main guy Nick Calathes is going to be fine and can play the next game... That’s what this team is all about: fighting together. It’s been a long season for us. We had some ups and downs. But we always stick together. It’s all about that. I’m really proud of the team, of the guys, the coaching staff. We need one more."
FC Barcelona
"Competitors like I consider myself live for moments like that. I wasn’t having a great game thus far. I wanted to step up for my team. I had some foul trouble. My teammates had been stepping up all game and luckily I came through in the right moment. But basketball is a funny sport. You have one wide-open missed shot and we have a chance to win it. We could have been sitting here completely devastated if it had went the other way. I’m just thankful for the win... I got myself in a bad situation [with fouls], but you just have to have faith in yourself, faith in your teammates. And just know that everything is going to work out for you if you just stay positive and engaged in the game. And it did.”
AX Armani Exchange Milan
"Small things decided the game. Execution down the stretch. We made mistakes and with a team like this, you can't make those types of mistakes. That ended up costing us. First half we gave up 51 points and our defense was basically non-existent. We were able to switch that. But we didn't make enough plays. Last play was a scramble play. It was a tough shot. Cory is a great player, he is an experienced player. He has been hitting shots like that for a long time. We came down, Kevin Punter got a good look at the basket and Cory came down and made the shot. Like I said, Cory is a great player and this is the way it goes sometimes."
AX Armani Exchange Milan
"We are disappointed. We did everything we can to win the game, we made a couple of mistakes and they just made a big shot. It wasn't bad defense, it was just better offense. Of course, we are disappointed, but we can't hold our heads. We fought. They are the best team in EuroLeague and we did everything we could to get a win. We just wanted to play aggressive. They are the best defensive team in the EuroLeague, we tried to take advantage of some things. I think we kind of went away a little bit from what was working. Nothing went wrong. It was just basketball. Everybody made runs and we played until the last 10 seconds and they made a better shot."
AX Armani Exchange Milan
"We didn't play well in the first half, but came ready in the second half. We had ups and downs during the game, as usual, and in the end, it went down to one possession and Cory [Higgins] made a shot. It is what it takes to be a champion and to get to the final and we lost today. We are working well and the season was good, but at this point, everybody wanted to play the final. Everybody wants to try to win. In the end, these games are played until the end and you cannot relax. They hit the last shot and we didn't do well in the last possessions and that's it. We have to learn from this and carry on."
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