Barcelona holds off Zenit at home
In a battle between two of the best defensive teams in the competition, FC Barcelona registered its fifth consecutive win by downing Zenit St Petersburg 85-81 at Palau Blaugrana on Tuesday. Barcelona improved to 16-6 to remain atop the standings while Zenit dropped to 13-7. Brandon Davies led the winners with 18 points. Kyle Kuric scored 16, Cory Higgins and Nikola Mirotic each added 14, while Nick Calathes dished 12 assists for Barcelona. Andrey Zubkov and Arturas Gudaitis led Zenit with 15 points apiece. Kevin Pangos added 13 while Billy Baron and Mateusz Ponitka each had 10 for the guests. Barcelona, up 16-14 after 10 minutes, extended that lead to 44-33 at halftime and then again to 69-50 at the end of the third quarter. Zenit managed to get within 74-68 in the fourth but Davies and Mirotic sealed the outcome down the stretch.
Pangos got Zenit going with a floater that Alex Abrines bettered that with a three-pointer for the hosts. Will Thomas hit a backdoor layup and Mateusz Ponitka finished a fastbreak for a 3-6 Zenit lead. Mirotic struck from downtown and Higgins dunked in a 9-0 run that Pierre Oriola capped with a layup to put Barca ahead 12-6. Baron and Ponitka downed triples, igniting an 0-8 Zenit run that Gudaitis capped with a power layup, but Higgins and Rolands Smits restored a 16-14 Barcelona lead after 10 minutes. Gudaitis converted a three-point play and Ponitka a second-chance layup to flip the lead at 18-19. That's when Kuric struck twice from beyond the arc and Davies matched Gudaitis's dunk with a reverse slam for a 27-21 Barcelona lead. The hosts kept feeding the unstoppable Kuric, who got help down low from Oriola and Mirotic to make it a double-digit game, 38-27. Higgins kept pacing Barcelona while Baron and Gudaitis kept Zenit within 44-33 at halftime. Calathes hit a jumper and Higgins a fastbreak layup to break the game open, 48-34, after intermission. Davies capped Barcelona's 9-1 run with a jump-hook, good for a 53-34 lead. K.C. Rivers and Austin Hollins each struck from downtown to bring Zenit within 55-41 before Davies, Calathes and Kuric scored around the basket at 61-43. Thomas and Zubkov tried to change things for Zenit but Adam Hanga and Leo Westermann boosted the hosts' lead to 69-50 after 30 minutes. Baron, Ponitka and Vitaly Fridzon fueled a 0-9 run that gave Zenit hope, 69-59, early in the fourth quarter, when Barcelona went scoreless for more than 4 minutes until Davies hit a foul-line jumper and Higgins a coast-to-coast layup. Nonetheless, Zubkov struck twice from downtown to get Zenit within 73-65 with 3 minutes left. Davies took over with a wild three-point play, a block and a jumper that sealed the outcome, 79-68, in the next-to-last minute.
In a defensive battle, keeping control of the game was crucial and that was Nick Calathes did for Barcelona. He had an all-around performance, finishing the game with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 steals and a PIR of 21.
Mateusz Ponitka gave Zenit its last lead, 18-19, early in the second quarter. Kyle Kuric, who had been scoreless until then, dynamited the game with three bombs from downtown, a floater and a jumper, allowing Barcelona to get a 36-27 margin. His 13 points in 4 minutes gave Barcelona the lead for good.
Two-point shots made the difference in this game. Zenit only hit 10 shots inside the arc out of 35 attempts (28.6%). That marked Zenit's lowest two-point shooting percentage ever in the competition. Barcelona hit 24-of-41 two-point shots (58.5%), which allowed it to win the game.
Did you know?
Zenit head coach Xavi Pascual, who led Barcelona to its second and most recent EuroLeague title, in 2010, registered his third loss in as many visits to Palau Blaugrana since parting ways with his former team in 2016. His previous two losses came with Panathinaikos OPAP Athens: 72-57 on December 2, 2016 and 98-71 on October 13, 2017.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action on Thursday of this week. Barcelona visits Olympiacos in a rematch of the 1998 and 2010 EuroLeague Championship Games. Zenit stays on the road to face AX Armani Exchange Milan as Arturas Gudaitis goes against his former team.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021