Rokas Jokubaitis may only be 21 years old, but the young point guard is slowly building up an impressive resume of big moments. Once again, the Lithuanian guard made a big play late to help FC Barcelona beat Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Thursday.
Jokubaitis scored a team-high 16 points - including a tough layup with 21 seconds left - as Barcelona fended off Efes 82-77 for its second victory over the reigning Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion this season and twice exacting revenge for losing to the Turkish club in the 2021 championship game.
The 16 points were a career-high for Jokubaitis, who joined Barcelona from Zalgiris Kaunas this off-season. He added 2 rebounds and 2 assists in the win while also hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers.
Jokubaitis came up big in the fourth quarter. While Barcelona star Nikola Mirotic had yet to score in the second half, the point guard drained a big three-pointer to slow an Efes comeback to make it 70-64. He also assisted on a triple by Kyle Kuric and then after Efes had trimmed the deficit to 73-72, Jokubaitis converted a difficult layup to give Barcelona some breathing room.
Jokubaitis did show he is still a youngster as he committed a traveling turnover with 1:52 minutes left and Barcelona up 80-74. And Efes closed the gap to 80-77 on a Vasilije Micic layup with 34 seconds to play.
He was not fazed by the moment and drove left and managed to get his lefty layup to fall with just 21 seconds to play. He missed the bonus free throw, but the danger had been avoided.
Jokubaitis had already punished Efes late in a game this season. In Barcelona’s 93-95 overtime win in Istanbul in Round 13 in early December, Efes had charged back into the game with 6 straight points to make it 90-91. Jokubaitis however completed a huge three-point play with 47 seconds left to help lock up the big win.
He totaled 9 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in that game. And the young talent has been a major reason why Barcelona continues to hold on without injured main point guard Nick Calathes.
Jokubaitis has scored in double figures in his last four games, averaging 13.3 points while shooting 50.0% on two-pointers, 60.0% on three-pointers and 81.8% on free throws to go with 2.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Not only are those numbers impressive for a 21-year-old, but so is the fact that he has played a major role twice late in games in knocking off the reigning EuroLeague champs.