After beating Real Madrid on Monday, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade will look to keep its momentum going when it hosts FC Barcelona, which has won three in a row. Both teams hope to have their star players back; Jordan Loyd has missed five straight games for Zvezda (7-13) and Nikola Mirotic has sat out the last four for Barcelona (14-6). Only 4-6 at home this season, Zvezda has won two of its last three in the Serbian capital. Barcelona is 6-4 on the road.
Johnny O'Bryant is a force for Zvezda thanks to his combination of size, strength and outside shooting. Those are the same skills that have made Nikola Mirotic an MVP candidate. O'Bryant (12.4 ppg., 5.3 rpg.) is second on his team in scoring and first in rebounds, while Mirotic (16.8 ppg., 6.6 rpg., 1.4 spg.) leads Barcelona is scoring, rebounding and steals. Their duel will be critical in this game.
Last time they met
Barcelona defeated Crvena Zvezda 76-65 in Round 10 in November for its fourth consecutive victory over the Serbian powerhouse. 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 added 12 points and Nick Calathes contributed 10 points and 8 assists for the winners. Dejan Davidovac paced Zvezda with 12 points.
Keys to victory: Zvezda
Despite the presence of Duop Reath and Ognjen Kuzmic, Zvezda is last in the league in two-point shooting at 49.4%. It won’t get any easier against Barcelona, which has allowed a league-low 48.9% in such shots. The potential return of Loyd could create more room in the paint for the Zvezda bigs, who must become threats to help the team put pressure on Barcelona.
Keys to victory: Barcelona
If there is any rust in the Barcelona attack as it brings Mirotic back into the fold, Coach Jasikevicius can always rely on his defense; Barcelona's 73.7 points allowed per game are the second-fewest in the league. Strong defense and the excellent perimeter scoring of its battery of swingmen that includes Cory Higgins, Alex Abrines and Kyle Kuric may be the recipe for a victory in Belgrade.