Barcelona KO's Zenit, secures return to Final Four
FC Barcelona advanced to the 2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four after routing Zenit St Petersburg 79-53 at Palau Blaugrana on Tuesday. After splitting the first four games of the best-of-five series, Barcelona dominated Game 5 and punched its ticket to the Final Four for the first time in seven years. Cory Higgins led the winners with 15 points, Nick Calathes added 12 and Brandon Davies and Kyle Kuric each scored 11 for Barcelona. Alex Poythress led Zenit with 11 points and Kevin Pangos dished 10 assists in defeat. Davies and Pau Gasol helped Barcelona to a 23-14 lead after 10 minutes. Kuric and Leandro Bolmaro boosted the margin to 43-30 at halftime and little changed after the break, as Barcelona boosted its margin to 57-39 at the end of the third quarter and had plenty of time to celebrate a historic win.
Higgins hit a jumper and Davies added a layup to give Barcelona its first lead, 4-2. Pangos scored in penetration, found Tarik Black for a layup, and struck from downtown for a 6-9 Zenit edge. Calathes downed a corner triple and Gasol scored down low in a 9-0 run that gave Barcelona a 15-9 cushion. Poythress scored in the paint, but Adam Hanga answered with a put-back basket and Higgins hit a jumper to make it 19-11. Poythress dunked, but Davies scored twice in the paint to fix the score at 23-14 after 10 minutes. Bolmaro erased Pangos's floater with a huge dunk in traffic and soon struck from beyond the arc, prompting Zenit to stop the game at 28-16. Kuric downed a three-pointer and Calathes added a close basket to break the game open at 33-18. Gasol bettered Andrey Zubkov's jump hook with a three-point play, but Billy Baron answered from downtown to bring the visitors within 36-23. Poythress dunked again, but an outstanding Kuric kept Barcelona in control, 41-25. Will Thomas and Poythress managed to bring Zenit closer, 43-30, at halftime.
Gasol and Thomas traded mid-range jumpers after the break, then Poythress's jump hook got the visitors within 45-34. Calathes hit back-to-back jumpers and struck from downtown in a 12-0 run that Kuric capped with a three-pointer for a 57-34 Barcelona lead. Vitaly Fridzon buried a jumper and Baron sank a three-pointer, bringing the visitors within 57-39 after 30 minutes. Victor Claver scored his first points early in the fourth quarter and Higgins added a driving layup for a 61-39 Barcelona lead. Fridzon scored again and Thomas buried a triple to give Zenit hope, 61-44, with over 7 minutes left. Higgins answered from beyond the arc, as Barcelona started to run the game clock down. Zenit kept struggling to score against Barcelona's outstanding defense and Davies sank a mid-range jumper to seal the outcome, 69-46, with 4 minutes remaining.
Pau Gasol played his best EuroLeague game since he returned to Barcelona and did it in the most decisive moment. He finished the game with 7 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals for a PIR of 16. Gasol also had 4 blocks, matching the club's playoff record that Gregor Fucka set against Real Madrid on April 4, 2006.
Zenit trailed 23-16 early in the second quarter when Barcelona turned to new go-to guys on offense. Leandro Bolmaro followed an outstanding dunk in traffic with a three-pointer. Kyle Kuric also struck from downtown and Nick Calathes scored in the paint for a 33-18 Barcelona margin. The hosts never looked back after that.
Barcelona finished the game with 9 blocks, matching the club's playoff record. Barcelona previously had 9 blocks against Real Madrid on April 4, 2006. It tied the second-best mark ever in playoff history; Real also had 9 blocks against Maccabi Tel Aviv on April 12, 2013. Fortitudo Bologna had 11 blocks against Cibona Zagreb on February 8, 2001; Stojan Vrankovic had 10 of those, which is still a EuroLeague's record.
Did you know?
Barcelona has made it to its 15th Final Four and its first since 2014. Since the format was adopted in 1988, Barcelona had never gone this long without a Final Four appearance. Its biggest gap had been three years. Only CSKA Moscow (19) has more Final Four appearances.
Barcelona is to set to face AX Armani Exchange Milan in one of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague EuroLeague Semifinals at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany on Friday, May 28. Zenit's outstanding 2020-21 EuroLeague campaign finished with this loss.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021