Barcelona thrashes Zenit, 85-58, in playoffs replay
FC Barcelona recorded its fifth without a loss this season by downing Zenit St Petersburg 84-58 on a very special night at Palau Blaugrana. Barcelona celebrated a belated 10th anniversary of its last Turkish Airlines EuroLeague title, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and pleased over 4,500 fans with a no-doubt-about-it victory. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 20 points while Brandon Davies and Sertac Sanli each added 11. Dmitry Kulagin, Jordan Loyd and Billy Baron led Zenit with 8 points apiece. Mirotic and Kyle Kuric allowed Barcelona to shake off a slow start and get a 20-19 edge after 10 minutes. Nigel Hayes-Davis, Brandon Davies and Cory Higgins took over in the second quarter, helping the hosts boost their margin to 44-27 at halftime. Mirotic opened the second half with 8 unanswered points to break the game wide open, 52-27, and even when Zenit kept trying, Barcelona sealed the outcome way before the final buzzer
Arturas Gudaitis got Zenit going with a dunk, Loyd added a jumper and Kulagin followed a triple with a driving basket for an early 4-9 lead. Nick Calathes stepped up for Barca with a backdoor layup and fed Mirotic for a triple that tied it, 9-9. Mateusz Ponitka and Andrey Zubkov each scored around the basket but Kuric struck from downtown to keep Barcelona within 12-14. Mirotic banked in a close shot and soon added a three-point play that put the hosts closer, 18-17. Baron downed a jumper but Kuric dunked to restore a 20-19 Barcelona lead after 10 minutes.
Hayes-Davis took over with a reverse layup early in the second quarter. Davies hit a jump hook and Kuric buried a three-pointer in transition to make Zenit call timeout at 27-21. Hayes-Davis kept pacing the hosts with a power layup that Nico Laprovittola followed with a triple to make it a double-digit game, 32-21. Davies impressed with an up-and-under layup and Hayes-Davis capped a 14-0 run with a jumper. Gudaitis tried to change things for Zenit but Sanli dunked and Higgins sank back-to-back jumpers to break the game open, 42-23. Kulagin and Jordan Mickey brought Zenit a bit closer, 44-27, at halftime.
Mirotic kept leading Barcelona after the break and quickly made it a 25-point game, 52-27, with back-to-back bombs from beyond the arc. Jordan Mickey tried to change things with a put-back dunk and Gudaitis scored again, as Zenit improved its defense. Davies stepped up with a wild dunk and Mirotic added a three-pointer that restored a 56-31 Barcelona margin. Davies dunked again and matched Alex Poythress's slam with a jump hook. Rolands Smits and Rokas Jokubaitis found their first points to keep Barcelona way ahead, 66-41, after 30 minutes.
Igor Volkhin stepped up with a three-point play early in the fourth quarter that Smits matched with a bomb from downtown. Jokubaitis took over with a driving layup but Poythress and Baron brought Zenit a bit closer, 73-51, with 6 minutes left. Jokubaitis hit a jumper and by the time Sanli banked in a close shot, everything was said and done already, as Barcelona had cruised to a well-deserved win on a very special night for the club.
Mirotic amazed in just 15 minutes
It took FC Barcelona superstar Nikola Mirotic just 15 minutes and 27 seconds to have one of his best games of the season. Despite seeing limited playing time, Mirotic finished the game with 20 points on 4-for-5 two-point, 3-for-4 three-point and 3-for-3 free-throw shooting. He added 4 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals and 3 fouls drawn for a PIR of 28. Mirotic already had a PIR of 16 at the end of the first quarter, scoring 10 points in that period. He sat out in the second and fourth quarters, but scored 8 unanswered points at the start of the second half to boost Barcelona's lead to 52-27.
Zenit's Kulagin is getting back on track
It was a rough 2020-21 season for Dmitry Kulagin, who couldn't play due to injury. Kulagin, whose brother Misha also plays professional basketball, played the 2016 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four with CSKA Moscow, helping his former team lift the trophy. He then had a solid three-year stint with Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar, being chosen to the 2017-18 All-EuroCup Second Team. Slowly but steadily, Kulagin has fought back through adversity and is back on the floor, contributing for Zenit. On Friday, he had 8 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in a team-high 25 minutes, a good sign going forward.
Barcelona shot better than Zenit, forced turnovers
FC Barcelona cruised to an 84-58 home victory against Zenit St Petersburg, in a rematch of last season's playoffs series. In one of the biggest keys to the game, Barcelona managed to keep Zenit to low shooting percentages. Zenit hit just 47.5% of its shots inside the arc and 20% from downtown. On the other hand, Barcelona shot the ball much better (58.7% 2FG, 42.1% 3FG). The hosts managed to limit turnovers to just 9 and managed to force Zenit to pick up as many as 17. The guests had 12 turnovers before halftime and Barcelona only had 2, which explains the 17-point difference, 44-27, at the break.
Friday, October 22, 2021