Mirotic stars as Barca gets revenge vs. Efes
FC Barcelona stepped strong into the new season with a 64-74 road win over last season's runner-up, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, on Friday. The victory avenged Barcelona's loss in Game 5 of the playoffs at the Sinan Erdem Dome last spring, which sent Efes to the Final Four. Nikola Mirotic celebrated his Turkish Airlines EuroLeague return with 24 points for Barcelona, hitting 4 of 8 shots from downtown. Malcolm Delaney excelled with 11 points and 7 assists, while Brandon Davies scored 10 to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Efes got 16 points from its new power forward, Alec Peters, who nailed 4 of 5 triples. Vasilije Micic added 14 points and Tibor Pleiss 13 for the hosts. Efes led early but 6 points in a row by Mirotic gave Barcelona the lead for good, even if Efes trimmed a 16-point difference after halftime to 46-49 at the end of three quarters. Delaney, Ante Tomic and Pierre Oriola on a 0-7 run to open the fourth quarter that Efes never came back from.
A second-chance triple by Peters opened the scoring, but soon Corey Higgins and Adam Hanga matched him to make it 5-8. Peters would strike again before Mirotic forced in a pair of layups. He then downed free throws to push Barcelona in front, 14-16. Delaney added 3 free throws to that lead to end the first quarter and a triple to open the second at 14-22, before Pleiss snapped Barcelona's 0-10 run. Only Pleiss could score for Efes, whose three-point troubles showed just 2 of 17 tries made by then while Barcleona's lead climbed to 20-31. Although Efes righted itself briefly, Davies and Victor Claver restored a double-digit Barcelona advantage, 26-37, at halftime. Barcelona kept it going with the first 5 points after the break. Mirotic added his own 7 in a row to make it 37-49, but another Peters triple woke up the crowd. Toga Gecim followed from deep for Efes,, then Bryant Dunston and Chris Singleton added free throws to make it 46-49 at the end of 30 minutes after a 20-7 Efes run. Delaney, Oriola and Tomic gave a Barcelona 0-7 start and a new double-digit lead, 46-56, early in the fourth. Peters and Mirotic traded triples at 51-61. Soon enough, though, Delaney's pull-up three made it 53-66 with 3 minutes left, and when Mirotic went deep shortly after, the game was firmly in Barcelona's hands.
Mirotic didn't merely have a game-high 24 points, but his timing was great. He scored 6 in a row to give Barcelona the lead late in the first quarter. And then 7 more in succession to keep it that way after halftime. He was also active on defense with 2 blocks and 4 rebounds for a PIR of 22.
When Efes rallied from 16 down to within 46-49, three were still 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Not only did its momentum stop there, as neither team scored in that time, but Barcelona came out with a 0-7 run in the fourth as its defense held Efes scoreless for 7 minutes total, deciding the game.
Missing in action
Efes was missing three of the team's top three scorers last season due to injury: playoffs and Final Four star Shane Larkin, at point guard; speedy Rodrigue Beaubois at the wing; and heady Adrien Moerman at powre forward.
Did you notice?
The game featured a grand total of just 12 free throw attempts. Barcelona made 5 for 5 at the line and Efes 6 of 7. Barcelona had only shot fewer than 5 free throws four times this century before, and Efes fewer than 7 just five times.
Efes stays at home for Round 2 to welcome ALBA Berlin for their first game since 2013. Meanwhile, Barcelona stays on the road to play its first game ever against Zenit St Petersburg.
Friday, October 4, 2019