Barca triumphs in St Petersburg to take series lead
FC Barcelona held off pesky Zenit St Petersburg 70-78 on Wednesday at Sibur Arena to take a 2-1 lead in the teams' best-of-five Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs series. In doing so, Barcelona regained the home-court advantage it had lost when Zenit won Game 1 in Spain. The visitors led throughout the second half, but Zenit kept it close and got within 1 early in the fourth quarter. Brandon Davies came through with two key baskets in the final 2 minutes to help preserve the win. Davies led all scorers with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks, Cory Higgins added 16 points, Kyle Kuric netted 13 and Nikola Mirotic had 11. Billy Baron paced the home team with 19 points, Alex Poythress scored 14 and Will Thomas and Kevin Pangos added 10 points each.
Barcelona got the start it wanted with a tip-in from Davies, a jumper from Higgins and free throws by Mirotic. Zenit committed 2 early turnovers and starting center Tarik Black took a seat with 2 early fouls as the hosts were held scoreless for 3 and a half minutes before K.C. Rivers got things going with a triple. Poythress took charge with an alley-oop dunk, a block and a layup to tie the game before Kuric drained a three for the visitors. Poythress remained hot and Thomas's free throws gave Zenit its first lead, 14-13. A three by Kuric evened the score at 16-16 after 10 minutes. Pau Gasol started the second quarter and his first touch resulted in an assist to Kuric for a triple, though Baron matched him to make it 21-19. Poythress dunked again and Baron stretched the lead to 6. Higgins revived the visitors with a three and then Davies dunked and sank a three to push the visitors back in front, 30-31. After Nick Calathes added a three, Pangos made 2 free throws to bring the hosts within 33-34 at the break.
Davies remained hot with a put-back and a three as Barcelona looked to pull away. A jumper by Calathes made it 35-41. Pangos and Higgins swapped threes before Kuric put back his own missed shot to extend the lead. Mirotic gave Barcelona the game's first double-digit advantage, 42-52. Baron led the Zenit comeback with free throws, a layup and a three in the last 90 seconds of the third quarter to get the hosts within 51-55. Pangos left the court and headed straight to the locker room after suffering a cut on his forehead, but that did not affect Baron, who nailed his third three of the night. The teams traded points and Gasol netted free throws to stretch the lead to 58-63. A three-point play by Mirotic sent Poythress to the bench with 5 fouls. Pangos returned and Baron scored to make it 60-66 with 6 minutes to play. Higgins hit free throws for a 62-70 cushion with 2:44 to play. After a timeout, Pangos scored twice in succession. Davies was summoned off the bench and scored twice for Barcelona to all but wrap up the win at 66-74 with less than a minute left.
The momentum seemed to be with the hosts after Kevin Pangos scored twice to bring Zenit within 4 with 2 minutes remaining. Coach Jasikevicius turned to his bench and summoned three of his top offensive weapons: Brandon Davies, Nikola Mirotic and Kyle Kuric. Davies immediately scored in the paint and – after Pangos missed a three – Davies wrestled away a rebound from Tarik Black to force a jump ball, won the tip and scored again to all but put the game on ice.
Brandon Davies not only all led all players in scoring with 22 points and led Barcelona in rebounding with 8, but he also helped wrap up the game with baskets on back-to-back possessions after Zenit got within 66-70 with 2 minutes to play. He made 7 of 12 two-pointers, 2 of 2 threes and 2 of 4 free throws and also had 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers in compiling a performance index rating of 28.
Barcelona dominated the glass 26-39, including 14 offensive rebounds. The visitors turned those into 19 second-chance points, which were 8 more than Zenit.
The two teams meet on Friday for Game 4 of the series. A victory for the hosts will force a fifth game in Barcelona the following week. A Barcelona victory will send it to the Final Four for the first time since 2014.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021