Kuric punishes former team as Barca stays perfect
FC Barcelona stayed perfect by gaining its second consecutive road win with an initially hard-fought but eventually comprehensive 63-87 victory at Zenit St Petersburg. The game was closely contested for the majority of the contest until Barca’s defense took over in the latter stages, allowing just 7 fourth quarter points and leaving Joan Plaza’s team still looking for its first victory of the season. Former Zenit star Kyle Kuric was the game’s standout performer, netting 24 points on perfect 4-of-4 three-point shooting, while Nikola Mirotic was a powerful presence inside with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Victor Claver scored 12 points and Brandon Davies added 10 points and a career-high 6 assists. Evgeny Voronov paced Zenit with 10 points, and Colton Iverson came close to a double-double with 9 points and 8 rebounds.
Voronov’s corner three and Andrew Albicy’s steal and score gave Zenit an early edge, but a pair of hook shots from Ante Tomic helped send Barca ahead. The lead continued to swap hands as Voronov and Claver both drained triples, before a long two from Austin Hollins fixed the score at 20-19 at the end of the first. More lead changes came through Anton Ponkrashov’s deep strike and a three-point play by Davies, before Alex Abrines struck from long-range to make it 23-27. Barca’s teen debutant Leandro Bolmaro scored his first points from the foul line to complete a 0-8 run, but three-pointers from Vladislav Trushkin and Alex Renfroe helped Zenit respond. 7 fast points from Kuric kept Barca ahead, but Iverson’s dunk and Trushkin’s triple kept Zenit in touch. Kuric and Tim Abroimaitis traded triples, and Malcolm Delaney’s free throws made it 40-43 at the break. Both offenses were slow to start the second half, with only 6 points scored in the first 5 minutes of the third. A triple from Davies gave Barca some daylight, but a fastbreak score and a layup from Abromaitis made it 51-50 to Zenit. Bolmaro’s three-point play and a Kuric layup restored the visiting team’s lead, and it was 56-59 at the end of the third. Davies and Kuric extended the margin early in the fourth as Zenit went scoreless for nearly 3 minutes, and the visiting defense continued to dominate as the lead slow grew with free throws. Nikola Mirotic’s baseline drive made it 59-70, and he then hit back-to-back triples to put the game beyond a fast-fading Zenit as Barca piled on the points in the latter stages.
Close battle…for three quarters
Although Barcelona was a comfortable winner in the end, for the first three quarters this was an extremely close game marked by several lead changes and meagre margins. Barca briefly moved into a 6-point lead in the second quarter but otherwise there was little daylight between the teams, with leads of 3 points or less holding sway for 24 of the first 30 minutes.
Kuric excels on return to St Petersburg
After shining for Zenit in the 2017/18 season, Kyle Kuric came back to haunt his former team on Friday night. The shooting star was the game’s highest scorer with a joint-career high 24 points, making 4-of-4 three-point attempts, and he also added 3 rebounds and 3 assists.
Teen Bolmaro makes Barca debut
Barcelona were short-handed in the backcourt with Thomas Heurtel, Cory Higgins, Kevin Pangos and Pau Ribas all missing. So when Malcolm Delaney limped off the court in the first quarter, Leondro Bolmaro came on to make his EuroLeague debut. The Argentina youth international alternated with Delaney throughout and totalled 17 energetic minutes, recording the first basket, rebound, assist and steal of his EuroLeague career.
Barcelona will play its first home game of the season with a visit from ALBA Berlin next Friday, while Zenit will go in seek of its first win on the road against Olympiacos Piraeus.
Friday, October 11, 2019