By Stefan Djordjevic / email@example.com
Despite not being able to count on Nikola Mirotic, who tested positive for coronavirus, Barcelona managed to come out on top 71-66 against Valencia in Round 3 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. Both squads now hold a 2-1 record in the standings.
Rolands Smits was leading the scorer sheet for Barca with 15 points on 6-6 shooting while Nick Calathes added 14 in addition to Alex Abrines and Brandon Davies’ 11 points each.
“No-one deserves more such a great game than Rolands [Smits]; he is practicing like few other players I have seen in my life. He is clearly missing experience and rhythm after not playing much in the last two years, but this was his opportunity and he took it,” Barca coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, who is back on the bench after recovering from COVID-19, said and added.
“I am very happy about this win. It is a difficult week for us, obviously. We haven’t been able to practice a lot and our team is a little bit out of rhythm. We showed some character today and this is something that we can build on, hopefully.”
Kyle Kuric made this season debut, returning from a surgery to replace a broken cranial implant, with five minutes on the court.
Valencia was actually the team to tip off the game slightly better with fewer turnovers and better board control but it didn’t translate into a significant lead. They were up by six multiple times but eventually, they went on the halftime rest with a 35-33 advantage as Smits kept Barca close by draining 13 points without a miss.
The third quarter, however, was a different story and it ended up being crucial for Barca’s road to victory. They completely took over the game sparked by Calathes and Abrines, winning the period 21-9 and taking a 59-44 lead early on in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense was the key tonight. They are really good offensively and our defense won us the game. That’s how we need to play every night. Obviously, our offense will come. We have a lot of talent. If we get stops on defense, it will be easy for us to play offense,” Calathes said.
Valencia put on a valiant effort for the rest of the match and although they cut the gap to as much as five points (67-62), it was too late to change the outcome as Barca came out victorious through the chaotic final couple of minutes.
Barcelona will clash at home against Panathinaikos on October 15 while Valencia’s clash against Zenit Saint Petersburg has been canceled due to the Russian squad’s problems with the coronavirus outbreak.