Zenit rallies past Barcelona
In a thriller that went down to the final minute, Zenit St Petersburg remained undefeated through two games by edging FC Barcelona 74-70 at Yubileyny Sports Palace on Friday. Zenit improved to 2-0 in the standings while Barcelona dropped to 1-1. Billy Baron and Alex Poythress led the winners with 16 points apiece. Kevin Pangos added 15, KC Rivers had 11 while Will Thomas got 10 for Zenit. Nikola Mirotic led Barcelona with 14 points while Alex Abrines had 11. Barcelona led 63-68 but Zenit improved its defense during crunch time, in which Pangos, Poythress and Rivers made the difference down the stretch.
Nick Calathes and Mirotic got Barcelona going with consecutive backdoor layups, then Cory Higgins and Abrines each struck from downtown for a 2-10 lead. Poythress and Pangos stepped up for Zenit and Baron buried a triple to make it 9-14. Victor Claver scored down low and Calathes added a three-pointer to give Barcelona a double-digit advantage, 9-19. Baron scored in penetration while Poythress dunked and Pangos buried one from the arc as Zenit stayed within 16-19 after 10 minutes. Brandon Davies took over with a layup-plus-free throw early in the second quarter for Barcelona, but Baron and Andrey Zubkov kept the hosts close at 20-22. Davies kept pacing Barcelona and Calathes scored around the basket for a 20-27 lead. Baron nailed a three-pointer and Pangos bettered Adam Hanga's put-back dunk with a three-point play to keep Zenit within 26-29. Leo Bolmaro responded with a driving layup for the visitors, but Poythress soon ignited the crowd with a one-handed alley-oop dunk and Pangos scored again. Nonetheless, Thomas Heurtel and Claver kept the guests ahead, 35-38, at halftime. Poythress dunked again soon after the break before Abrines answered from downtown for a 37-41 Barcelona lead. Rivers beat the shot clock with a triple for Zenit and Baron added a driving layup but Mirotic and Higgins kept the guests in charge, 42-45. Abrines insisted from beyond the arc, getting help from Davies and Higgins to restore a 47-54 Barcelona lead. Poythress kept pacing Zenit and Baron hit a floater that brought Zenit as close as 54-55 after 30 minutes. A jumper by Mateusz Ponitka gave Zenit its first lead, 56-55, early in the fourth quarter. Mirotic banked in a close shot and fed Claver for a three-pointer that gave Barcelona fresh air at 56-60. Ponitka scored again and Thomas sank a triple, keeping the hosts as close as 63-64. Mirotic and Rolands Smits each scored around the basket but Zenit found a go-to guy in Rivers, who struck twice from beyond the arc in an 8-0 run that put the hosts ahead, 71-68, with over 3 minutes left. Mirotic scored down low but free throws by Pangos and Thomas sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Poythress showed the entire competition what he is capable of, finishing the game with 16 points on 7-for-12 two-point shooting plus 2-for-2 free throws, adding 11 rebounds, a steal and 2 blocks for a PIR of 22. Poythress was all over the place.
Barcelona led 63-68 but Zenit was far from being done. Rivers buried a wild step-back three-pointer and, after Poythress scored around the basket, did it again to cap a 8-0 run, giving Zenit the lead for good, 71-68. Great defense allowed Zenit to finish the job.
Zenit outrebounded Barcelona by 33-25 and only allowed its opponents to pull down 5 offensive boards. Zenit did a bit better from downtown, hitting 8-of-21 three-point shots (38.1%) and limiting Barcelona to just 7-of-23 (30.4%).
Did you know?
It was Davies's 100th EuroLeague career game. He finished it with 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 fouls drawn. Davies, who never missed a game due to injury in his four seasons in the competition, now has a 61-39 career record, amassing 1,112 points and 429 rebounds.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action early next week for Round 3 on Tuesday, October 13. Zenit visits TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz at 21:00 CET. Barcelona also plays at 21:00 CET, on the road against Valencia Basket.
Friday, October 9, 2020