FC Barcelona struggled from long range in its first three games of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. That made the return of Kyle Kuric all the more important and the sharpshooter gave the team a real boost from the outside against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Thursday night.
Kuric was sidelined for the start of the season and played 5:14 minutes in Barcelona’s Round 3 game against Valencia Basket, but the 31-year-old logged 24 minutes against Panathinaikos and played a major role in the 97-89 overtime victory. His presence became even more important when starter - and Barcelona's most dangerous three-point threat - Alex Abrines hurt his ankle in the first quarter.
Barcelona had connected on just 20-of-61 three-pointers (32.8%) in its first three games - including Kuric going 0-of-2 against Valencia. But he drained 4 of 6 triples for 14 points to spark Barcelona into a 13-of-31 (41.9%) performance from the outside. Kuric worked especially well in tandem with Nick Calathes, who also came off the bench and drained 4 three-pointers for 14 points against his former team. The duo hit back-to-back triples in the second quarter and each hit another three-pointer later in the period. It was Calathes and then Kuric from long range again in sparking a big 12-0 run to turn a 44-55 deficit into a 56-55 lead in the third quarter. And Calathes assisted on Kuric’s fourth three-pointer in overtime.
Kuric knocked down 97-of-233 three-pointers (41.6%) in his two EuroLeague seasons with Barcelona after shooting 46.8% on three-pointers over four seasons in the 7DAYS EuroCup with Herbalife Gran Canaria and Zenit St Petersburg.
His three-point shooting prowess will be needed by Barcelona this season to help free up space around the basket for players like Nikola Mirotic and Brandon Davies. It showed that it can work as Davies shined against Panathinaikos with 20 points, his best showing of the season. All signs point to a bigger role in the coming games for Kuric.