There was high anticipation at Palau Blaugrana on Friday as more than 3,000 fans gathered at FC Barcelona's home court to finally see their team in a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game for the first time since March 2020.
The hosts made sure that no one went home disappointed, thrashing ALBA Berlin 96-64 with numbers that, if anything, outdid the final score.
All 12 of Barca's players scored and grabbed at least one rebound. Nine of them dished an assist among the team's 28 as compared to just 14 turnovers. That led to stellar shooting percentages: 61.0% on two-point shots (25-of-41) and 66.7% from downtown (14-of-21). Barcelona also outrebounded ALBA 41-27.
The resulting performance index rating of 127 was Round 1's highest, 27 points ahead of LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, and Barca's 11th-best this century.
All-EuroLeague forward Nikola Mirotic was the catalyst for Barca with 22 points on perfect shooting: 4 two-pointers, 4 threes and 2 free throws. It was the sixth-best scoring total without a shot missed in the EuroLeague this century and tied Barca's record for perfect shooting, held by Joe Ingles since November of 2012. Mirotic added 5 rebounds, an assist, a steal and 2 fouls drawn for a PIR of 31 – all in less than 18 minutes. In his last three games against ALBA, Mirotic has scored 66 points (22.0 ppg.) on 20-for-22 two-point shooting (90.9% 2FG).
"We were huge on defense, everybody scored, everybody played well, so it was a perfect beginning of the season," Mirotic said right after the game. "It is all about the team. It is always about my teammates and our coaching staff. It was just great to be back and enjoy this game that I love so much. I am very happy and this is just the beginning."
No Barca player was on the floor more than 22 minutes, which was also important for head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius.
"Right now, we have a little stretch of a lot of games in seven or eight days, and it is very important that we all play together. We all contributed," he said.
Saras also joked about the return of fans to the stands and what his team can expect on the road from now on.
"When we get people back, especially on our court, it's great," he said. "When you go on the road, not so nice, you know? But it's OK, we will deal with it."
Barcelona will find out if its hot start can survive the road next week against another German team, FC Bayern, in Munich.