It was clear going into the series that rebounding could be a decisive factor. Never was this more true than in FC Barcelona's 70-78 road win in Game 3 on Wednesday during which the visitors outrebounded Zenit 26-39. What's more, it had 14 offensive rebounds and scored 19 second-chance points.
For Barcelona, the points on the offensive glass were by design. Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius expected the likes of Zenit big men Tarik Black and Alex Poythress to switch and challenge on defense and he had his players ready.
"We were ready to suffer. That's what I call these baskets at the end of possessions when Zenit jump switches with a point guard in their defense at the end and it's just time to suffer a little bit," Saras explained after the game. "And if we cannot punish the great defense of Zenit, we must punish it with offensive rebounds. This was important. Our guys understood it."
No one understood it more than Brandon Davies, who accounted for 4 offensive rebounds and 6 second-chance points – including the first basket of the game. He completed the month of April with 27 second-chance points, which was the third-most by any player in a single month with five or fewer appearances since records on the stat were recorded in 2007-08. Adam Hanga was the only other Barcelona player with multiple offensive boards on Wednesday.
While Zenit head coach Xavi Pascual agreed with the role rebounding played in the game, he pointed to one more culprit: "This was a game that clearly we lost because of defensive rebounding and turnovers. For us in this series, it’s crucial, but Barca has this quality, has the size and amazing players. We didn't control the defensive rebounds. We had some turnovers in offense because we a little bit hesitated, which is something that happens."
Zenit only committed 10 turnovers, which is a fine number; every team in the league averages more than 10 turnovers per game. However, in a playoff game against Barcelona, that number was too high for Pascual.
Pascual, who opened his remarks by thanking the Zenit supporters for the "amazing atmosphere" they created, also explained how that was part of his team's downfall.
"I tried in these days to prepare the players for what they will feel with our fans because usually, it looks easier to play, but you have to control your emotions," Pascual said. "If you control your emotions, it is easier to play. But if not, you make a lot of turnovers and this is what happened today."
He further added that perhaps 2 more defensive rebounds and 2 fewer turnovers could have been worth the 8-point difference that Barcelona won by.
It won't be easy for Zenit to bridge the rebounding gap with Arturas Gudaitis and Mateusz Ponitka – two of the team's top four rebounders – both sidelined, but that is surely one of the main things Zenit will aim to do in Game 4 on Friday.