Barca nails down home-court advantage
FC Barcelona clinched the home-court advantage in the upcoming Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs by downing ALBA Berlin 80-67 at Palau Blaugrana on Friday. The only team that punched its playoffs ticket, Barcelona improved to 23-8 to move closer to clinching first place, too. Meanwhile, already-eliminated ALBA dropped to 11-20. Nikola Mirotic led the winners with 26 points. Pierre Oriola added 13, Brandon Davies 12 and Kyle Kuric got 10. Nick Calathes dished 11 assists for Barcelona. Luke Sikma led ALBA with 9 points. Sikma, Simone Fontecchio and Johannes Thiemann pushed ALBA to a 22-23 lead after 10 minutes. Mirotic stepped up for Barcelona, getting help from Kuric and Oriola to put Barcelona in charge, 45-40, at halftime. ALBA managed to stay within 62-58 at the end of the third quarter but Adam Hanga and Mirotic fueled a 9-0 run that sealed the outcome way before the final buzzer.
Oriola got Barcelona going with a tip-in but Sikma hit a couple of jumpers in a 0-6 run and Malte Delow bettered Mirotic's layup with a three-point play for a 4-9 ALBA lead. Mirotic and Hanga hit floaters in a 6-0 run that Oriola capped with a layup for a 10-9 Barcelona lead. Fontecchio took over with a fastbreak slam and Peyton Siva struck from downtown but Mirotic and Davies kept the hosts within 14-16. Sergi Martinez and Rolands Smits downed triples for the hosts, but Niels Giffey and Thiemann kept ALBA ahead, 22-23, after 10 minutes. Kuric followed a four-point play with a bomb from beyond the arc early in the second quarter. Ben Lammers stepped up with 5 quick points but Oriola sank a triple for a 32-28 score. Calathes bettered Siva's jumper with a layup-plus-foul, Mirotic and Sikma traded three-pointers, and Oriola restored a 40-33 Barcelona margin. Christ Koumadje followed a jump hook with an alley-oop slam in a 0-7 ALBA run that Marcus Eriksson closed with a triple for a 40-40 tie. Oriola and Mirotic put Barcelona back ahead, 45-40, at halftime. Mirotic hit a jumper and Oriola added a backdoor layup but Sikma and Jayson Granger kept ALBA within 49-44. Thiemann and an unstoppable Mirotic traded baskets and Giffey struck from downtown to keep ALBA as close as 51-49. Davies followed a three-point play with a jump hook and soon added a couple of layups to give Barcelona a 60-52 edge. Eriksson, Giffey and Granger each downed a jumper to give ALBA hope, 62-58, after 30 minutes. Hanga sank a corner triple early in the fourth quarter and Mirotic scored twice in the paint to give the hosts plenty of fresh air, 69-58. Hanga capped a 9-0 run with a driving layup, as Lammers hit a triple at 71-61. Smits and Fontecchio traded layups and Kuric struck from beyond the arc to seal the outcome, 77-65, with over 2 minutes left.
Nikola Mirotic lived up to his role and led Barcelona, especially on offense but also on defense. He finished the game with 26 points by hitting 8 of 10 two-pointers while adding 7 rebounds, an assist, 3 steals, 1 block and 5 fouls drawm for a PIR of 28.
Barcelona broke the game open at the start of the fourth quarter as Nick Calathes had 4 assists in 3 minutes. He found Adam Hanga for a corner three-pointer, fed Nikola Mirotic for back-to-back layups, and connected again with Hanga for a driving basket. Barcelona used a 9-0 run to get a 71-58 margin and never looked back.
Barcelona forced ALBA into 21 turnovers and 13 assists, the visitors’ second-highest and second-lowest such figures, respectively, this season. ALBA dished .62 assists per turnover and Barcelona did much better (1.63, 26 assists and 16 turnovers).
Did you know?
Barcelona remains undefeated at home against ALBA since the turn of the millenium. ALBA's last win at Palau Blaugrana, 66-67, came on February 17, 2000 behind 13 points from Wendell Alexis. Barcelona is also a five-game winning streak against the German powerhouse.
Both teams return to EuroLeague action next Tuesday, March 30, for their first games in a double-round week. ALBA visits Zalgiris Kaunas, featuring its former player, Marius Grigonis, while Barcelona travels to play Maccabi Playtike Tel Aviv, the one-time club of its coach, Sarunas Jasikevicius.
Friday, March 26, 2021