FC Barcelona took a big triumph in El Clásico on Friday, downing Real Madrid 77-70 to grab its fourth consecutive regular season victory and ninth in the last 11 games. A lot of things have changed for Barcelona this season as the team has returned to the standards that made it a perennial title candidate for many years.
Barcelona has managed to turn Palau Blaugrana into a fortress for the first time since the new 30-game regular season format came to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague two seasons ago. Only three teams so far this season – CSKA Moscow, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul and Olympiacos Piraeus – have been able to win at Palau Blaugrana. With a 9-3 home record so far, should it win the last three home games, Barcelona would have more victories at Palau Blaugrana than it had overall victories (11) last season. Barcelona was 8-7 at home last season and 9-6 in the 2016-17 campaign.
Indeed, an El Clásico win on the night the club retired Juan Carlos Navarro's jersey was Barcelona's first EuroLeague victory against Madrid since the new format was chosen. Madrid had taken their last five EuroLeague showdowns, and by particularly wide margins at Palau Blaugrana: 74-101 last season and 63-102 the one before that. But things are changing at Palau Blaugrana.
Barcelona now boasts the best defense of all home teams in the competition, allowing just 71.4 points per game. Not only does Barcelona limit opponents to just 29.7 rebounds per game, but it also limits them to 50.7% two-point shooting. As such, teams neither score in the paint nor rebound well. Barcelona is first in rebounds at home (37.5 rpg.), which explains a lot of its domination there this season.
On Friday, Barcelona allowed Madrid to score just 70 points on low percentages (52.9% 2FG, 25.8% 3FG) and outrebounded the visitors 43-32. Barcelona also stopped Madrid's transition game, holding their rivals to 12 assists, tying Madrid's season low. Madrid also had a team PIR of 53, its lowest since reaching 49 against Bilbao Basket on February 8, 2012.
Barcelona now faces a big game against Anadolu Efes Istanbul in a critical battle for the home-court advantage in the playoffs, on Friday, March 8.