Barcelona survives stiff challenge in Belgrade
FC Barcelona held on late to beat Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 69-76 on Tuesday night at Aleksandar Nikolic Hall for its seventh consecutive victory. The league-leaders improved to 13-2 on the season and dropped Zvezda to 6-9. Barcelona led through the second half, but a late Zvezda charge got the hosts within 3 with the ball in the final minutes. Nikola Mirotic and Kyle Kuric came through late to secure the victory. Nigel Hayes-Davis led the way for Barcelona with 14 points and 8 rebounds, Rolands Smits and Sertac Sanli scored 11 points apiece and Mirotic tallied 10 points and 7 boards. Luka Mitrovic and Nikola Kalinic scored 15 points each for Zvezda and Nate Wolters added 11.
Sanli and Mirotic – the latter with a bonus free throw – scored inside to give the visitors an early cushion. Ognjen Kuzmic got Zvezda on the scoreboard with a put-back. Sergi Martinez made a three from the corner and Sanli added a jumper for a 3-10 lead. After a basket for Zvezda by Kalinic, Sanli and Martinez buried back-to-back threes for a double-digit lead, 5-16, midway through the quarter. Mitrovic was a focal point on offense for Zvezda and scored on the fastbreak and on the pick-and-roll to make it 13-20 after 10 minutes.
The Zvezda defense stifled Barcelona early in the second quarter, while Maik Zirbes and Mitrovic fueled a 7-0 run to even the score. Hayes-Davis made free throws to end a 4-plus-minute scoring drought for the visitors. Wolters gave Zvezda its first lead, 23-22, with a triple. A Sanli slam put Barcelona back on top, but Zvezda stayed close and Wolters tied it at 27-27 with a floater. A dunk by Smits and free throws by Kyle Kuric gave Barcelona control, though a put-back by Kuzmic kept Zvezda close, 31-34 at halftime.
Nicolas Laprovittola opened the second-half scoring with a triple. Hayes-Davis also hit from deep and Laprovittola made another as the lead grew to 35-43. Kalinic helped keep Zvezda close and his triple made it 44-47. Smits matched him at the other end and Hayes-Davis added a three from almost the same spot. Smits dunked and Hayes-Davis made free throws to restore a double-digit lead, 46-57. Jokubaitis made it 49-61 through three quarters.
The teams traded points in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter and free throws by Mitrovic made it 57-65. The Zvezda defense stiffened up while Dejan Davidovac and Kalinic narrowed the gap to 63-67 with 3 and a half minutes remaining. Barcelona called timeout and Mirotic converted a three-point play off a baseline spin move to give the visitors breathing room. Markovic ignited the crowd with a three that made it 68-71 with just over 2 minutes remaining. After a bad pass by Jokubaitis, Austin Hollins missed a three that would have tied it. Mirotic sank free throws for Barcelona and a triple by Kuric with 30 seconds left all but put the game on ice.
Hayes-Davis leads the way
Nigel Hayes-Davis had his finest game in an FC Barcelona uniform on Tuesday with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists for a performance index rating of 23. All four numbers represent season-highs and the rebounds tied his career-high. Hayes-Davis, who joined the club this season from Zalgiris Kaunas, did most of his damage in the third quarter when he scored 12 points to help build a double-digit lead, which proved crucial later when Crvena Zvezda rallied. First, he made a three to put the visitors up 7 and then he took a dish from Nikola Mirotic for a contested layup and an 8-point lead. He scored again from close range before burying a triple that put Barcelona up 9 and then added free throws for a 46-57 advantage.
Game-changing moments: Crvena Zvezda vs. Barcelona
After Stefan Markovic drew Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade within 68-71 with just over 2 minutes remaining, FC Barcelona guard Rokas Jokubaitis turned the ball over trying to find Nikola Mirotic in the points. The momentum was very much with the hosts when Austin Hollins attempted a game-tying triple, but he missed. Nigel Hayes-Davis captured the rebound and Nikola Mirotic drew an off-ball foul from Hollins at the other end. He made free throws with 1:14 on the clock to make it a two-possession game and Kyle Kuric’s three with 29 seconds to go clinched the win.
By the numbers: Zvezda doomed by three-point struggles
Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade had its second-worst three-point shooting night of the season in falling to FC Barcelona in Round 15. The hosts made just 3 of 20 triples (15%), while Barcelona was 9 of 18 (50%) from downtown. It was the third time this season Zvezda was held to 3 threes, though against Monaco in Round 6 it was 3 for 21 (14.3%). The three-point shooting discrepancy overshadowed the fact that Zvezda committed just 7 turnovers, which were 6 fewer than Barcelona, and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
Tuesday, December 14, 2021