Barca downs Zvezda, extends win streak
FC Barcelona extended its reign atop the standings by leading from start to finish in downing the Crvena Zvezda MTS Belgrade 76-65 on Friday night at Palau Blaugrana. Barcelona registered its seventh consecutive win and improved to a league-best 8-1 record, while Zvezda dropped to 4-6. Barcelona took control from the start, quickly opened a double-digit margin, and led by as many as 22 points before Zvezda attempted a late charge. Nikola Mirotic led the way with 23 points in 23 minutes. Pierre Oriola had 12 points, and Nick Calathes contributed with 10 points and 8 assists for the winners. Dejan Davidovac was the only double-digit Zvezda scorer with 12 points.
Barcelona started strong on defense, forcing 4 turnovers and not allowing a single Zvezda basket for more than 4 minutes to open the game. With Calathes creating, Mirotic accounted for 5 of the hosts' first 7 points even before he nailed a triple to open an 11-2 lead. Big man Duop Reath scored twice from close range for the visitors, but Calathes took it to the rim twice before fastbreak baskets from Leandro Bolmaro and Brandon Davies opened 19-6 advantage after 10 minutes. The hosts kept the intensity, not allowing a field goal for more than 4 minutes of the second quarter, with Rolands Smits scoring twice inside as the margin reached 25-8. Langston Hall hit a mid-range jumper to end the visitors' drought, and Davidovac followed it up with a triple and a jumper at 27-15. But Oriola and Sergi Martinez scored from close range for the hosts, and after Corey Walden hit a triple, Mirotic answered with a three-point play before Cory Higgins' buzzer-beating triple made it 39-22 at halftime. Not much changed after the break. Mirotic's triple opened a 46-24 gap, and while Davidovac scored 6 close-range points for the visitors, Mirotic and Higgins kept the margin intact. A triple from Reath, followed by back-to-back threes from Ognjen Dobric soon gave Zvezda hope at 54-42. Davies snapped a 2-12 Zvezda run and Adam Hanga followed with a corner three to help restore a 61-44 scoreboard after three quarters. Zvezda had no intentions of giving up and Johnny O'Bryant's three-point play and Hall's jumper soon cut the difference to 63-51. Alex Abrines answered with a jumper-plus-foul, before two more tough baskets from Hall and a step-back triple from Taylor Rochestie helped get the visitors get within 69-62 with 2:30 to go. They could not come any closer, however, as Calathes iced the game.
This game marked Barcelona's 500th in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague this century. Barcelona became just the second team to reach that milestone after CSKA did it last week in Round 8.
Defense neutralizes Loyd
Barcelona's top-scoring defense held league's top scorer Jordan Loyd to just 2 points, both coming from a free throw line early in the third quarter. Loyd, who entered the game averaging 21.1 points per game, shot 0-for-4 on both two- and three pointers.
Barcelona starters scored 55 of team's 76 points, compared to just 19 by Zvezda's starters.
Barcelona led by double digits for the great majority of the game, and despite Zvezda's late charge the hosts controlled things for four quarters. Still, Zvezda did dish 15 assists compared to just 13 by Barcelona, and the hosts had more turnovers (16) in victory than the visitors (14) in defeat.
Next week in Round 11, Zvezda will host Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Thursday, while Barcelona will travel to play LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne on Friday.
Friday, November 20, 2020