Barcelona rises to top of the standings
FC Barcelona led from start to finish, using one of the best defensive efforts this season in beating Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 60-72 on Friday night in the Serbian capital. A fourth consecutive win improved Barcelona to a league-best 15-6 record, the same as CSKA Moscow, but Barcelona climbs back to the top of the standings due to a tiebreak advantage over CSKA. Meanwhile, Zvezda drops to 7-14, four wins behind the playoffs spots. Barcelona needed 6 minutes to open a double-digit lead, but Zvezda caught up behind three-pointers from Corey Walden and Ognjen Dobric and was within 31-35 at halftime. But Barcelona remained in front and then used a 2-17 run bridging third and fourth quarters to pull away to a 21-point margin and cruised to victory. Cory Higgins paced the winners with 14 points. Pierre Oriola collected 12 points plus 7 rebounds, Rolands Smits scored 11, and Nick Calathes had 10 points and 5 assists for Barcelona. Dobric was the only Zvezda player in double figures with 11 points.
Barcelona went to work inside right away with Oriola, and then Higgins followed up with a mid-range jumper. Zvezda was shooting from long range, but Dobric's triple was the hosts' only basket in almost 6 minutes to open the game. Higgins hit another one from mid-range and Mirotic had a put-back, before a basket-plus-foul from Oriola made it 3-14. Walden snapped a 0-8 run with a three-pointer, but Smits hit one from long range, then used a nifty move to make a layup before another triple from Dobric made it 11-21 after 10 minutes. Dejan Davidovac drove the baseline to cut it to 14-21, but Abrines knocked down a triple, the visitors' only field goal in the first 5 minutes of the quarter. A corner three from Walden helped cut it to 19-26 midway through the second before Jordan Loyd made a pair of floaters and scored a total of 7 points in the final 4 minutes to get Zvezda within 31-35 at halftime.
Barcelona’s offense got going after the break with Calathes pulling the strings, feeding Higgins and Oriola for easy baskets. Higgins scored 6 points before an Oriola layup opened 36-47 after less than 4 minutes of play in the third. Branko Lazic and Quino Colom each knocked down a three-pointer, helping Zvezda cut it to 43-49, but Barcelona answered by scoring the next 8 points behind Brandon Davies and Higgins, taking a 45-57 lead into the fourth quarter. Barcelona went on to score the first 9 points of the fourth, with Kyle Kuric sinking a jumper and Davies and Smits making 7 of 8 free throws. Zvezda answered with a 9-0 run of its own, as Dobric hit from long range and Loyd went coast-to-coast for a layup with 3 minutes left. But it was too little too late, as Barcelona closed out the game.
Barcelona led the entire game, but after Zvezda got to within 43-49 late in the third quarter, the visitors put together a 2-17 spurt. Barcelona finished the third quarter on a 2-8 run, then opened the fourth with a 0-9 run, making it a 45-66 game, sealing the deal.
Holding Zvezda to 60 points is Barcelona's best effort away from home in almost two years, since allowing 55 points against Olympiacos in Piraeus on January 31, 2019. Since that game in Piraeus, this is only the second time Barcelona allowed 60 or fewer points in a EuroLeague game, having held Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul to 55 points on home floor in Round 8 this season.
Barcelona held Zvezda to 42.9% for two-pointers and just 26.7% for three, and also outrebounded the host 30-47. The visitors pulled down 9 more rebounds than Zvezda in the first quarter, which it won 11-21, and Barcelona had 7 more boards than the hosts in the third quarter which it won 14-22.
Zvezda guard Jordan Loyd returned to action for the first time since Round 15, and home team center Landry Nnoko made his first appearance this season after making his debut with ALBA Berlin last season. Barcelona star forward Nikola Mirotic also returned to action after missing four games, and center Brandon Davies was back after a six-game injury absence.
Both teams will be in action in Round 22 on Tuesday when Zvezda visit Anadolu Efes Istanbul, and Barcelona host Zenit St Petersburg.
Friday, January 22, 2021