Barcelona holds firm at Fenerbahce
FC Barcelona sent a statement of intent by holding firm for a 74-80 road victory at Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in a bruising encounter at Ulker Sports and Events Hall. The visiting team was red hot in the opening stages, racing to an 18-point lead early in the second quarter. Fener battled back and briefly took the lead in the fourth quarter, but Barca found fresh resolve to pull clear in the closing minutes and snap a three-game losing streak. Victor Claver led the scoring with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, while Nikola Mirotic had a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. Malcolm Delaney scored 14 points and Brandon Davies and Cory Higgins both netted 12. Kostas Sloukas paced Fenerbahce with 14 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds, with Nando De Colo and Nikola Kalinic adding 12 and James Nunnally scoring 11 points in defeat. Barca improved to 14-6 to stay in third place. Fenerbahce fell to 8-12.
Higgins's three-pointer and layups from Claver and Adam Hanga opened the scoring with Fenerbahce failing to score in the opening 3:36 as Mirotic's mid-range jumper made it 0-11. Malcolm Thomas broke the Fener drought with free throws and Sloukas scored from deep. Claver and Mirotic kept Barca moving. Luigi Datome’s triple was answered by Claver to make it 12-24 at the end of the first. Kyle Kuric and Delaney made it 12-30 with deep strikes before De Colo’s layup and triple capped an 8-0 run to bring Fener back. Free throws from Nunnally and De Colo – following a technical foul on visiting coach Svetislav Pesic – made it 27-33. Mirotic snapped a 17-3 run with a put-back, but Sloukas scored from deep and De Colo made free throws after an unsportsmanlike foul on Hanga, 34-35. Higgins and Pierre Oriola kept Barca ahead, but Kalinic nailed a triple and Sloukas beat the shot clock to fix the halftime score at 39-42.
Davies produced a trio of sharp finishes early in the second half and Claver’s triple stretched the lead to 43-51. Kalinic’s deep strike helped keep Fener close, but Delaney answered with a three and Claver’s one-handed floater made it 48-57. Nunnally struck twice from the corner, but Claver netted another three-pointer and it was 56-61 after three quarters. Free throws from Nunnally and De Colo’s driving score made it 60-61 before Ali Muhammed finished a fastbreak for Fener’s first lead. Hanga and Vesely exchanged close-range scores before Delaney drained a triple and drove for a layup and a 64-68 edge. A technical foul on the Fenerbahce bench was punished by Mirotic’s free throw and a jumper from Higgins. Vesely dunked before fouling out as Davies made it 66-73. Delaney’s pull-up triple gave Barca a double-digit lead. De Colo’s layup closed the gap and Derrick Williams scored free throws to make it 70-76 with 80 seconds remaining. Sloukas pulled his team closer from the foul line, but Higgins and Mirotic made their free throws to wrap it up.
Taking care of business
In the face of tough defense and a raucous crowd, Barcelona took care of the basketball brilliantly. The visiting team only committed its first turnover after 15 minutes and finished the game with 9 turnovers, 6 of which came in the frantic final quarter. Fenerbahce, by contrast, turned the ball over 17 times.
Rebounding battle closely fought
Barca also did a great job of giving itself more chances to score, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds including 3 apiece for guards Cory Higgins and Kyle Kuric. Fenerbahce had 10 offensive boards and the overall rebounding battle was tied at 34-34.
Milestone occasion for Delaney
Visiting guard Malcolm Delaney reached a milestone by passing 1,000 points in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with a pull-up triple midway through the third quarter. Delaney, formerly with FC Bayern Munich and Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, achieved the mark in his 73rd EuroLeague appearance at an average of 13.8 points per game.
Tough night for fit-again Vesely
Jan Vesely played his second game after a two-month injury absence, but the reigning league MVP was limited after picking up 3 fouls in just 3 minutes during the first quarter. Vesely was then given a technical foul for flopping with 2:38 left in the third and lasted most of the final quarter before fouling out with 3 minutes left.
Barcelona returns home to welcome Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade next Thursday, January 23, one night before Fenerbahce hosts AX Armani Exchange Milan.
Thursday, January 16, 2020