By Eurohoops team / firstname.lastname@example.org
Barcelona went off to a hot start in the EuroLeague Clasico and never looked back to beat archrival Real Madrid 86 – 68 on the road. This result pushed Barca to the top of the standings since both teams stand at a league-best 20 – 5 and the Blaugrana are 2-0 vs. Real.
Not even the most optimistic Barca fan would probably expect his team to enter this match in such a fiery fashion. With Nicolas Laprovittola scoring 12 out of his team-high 20 overall points through five minutes during the first period vs. his former team, the visiting side took a 2 – 24 lead and finished the quarter up 8 – 28, leaving their opponents and everyone in Wiznick Center stunned.
“I play for my teammates, for my coach and for Barcelona,” Laprovittola said when asked if it means something that he played so well against his previous club. “I play for my family. My parents are here, so I am really happy, I am enjoying it. Our team is amazing. I think it is special. We are working a lot, improving every day, and I think we have to keep going like today.”
While Real balanced things out a bit, Barcelona went to the locker with a 31 – 52 halftime advantage. The numbers comparison was brutal since Real had 0 – 7 triples and four assists overall while their opponents were 5 – 13 from the 3-point line and Nick Calathes alone had dished out five assists.
Barcelona was in complete control of the game even with star forward and EuroLeague leading scorer Nikola Mirotic being held to just two points at the break. He finished with nine points on 3-11 shots but his lackluster performance didn’t affect anything in the outcome.
Despite continuous struggles from the perimeter, Real managed to pull off some reaction and approach 55 – 71 at the end of the third quarter. But while the Blancos stopped the bleeding on their defensive end, they couldn’t translate these stops into buckets.
Save for a spectacular Edy Tavares (25 points on 10-10 shots plus six rebounds) no other Real player stepped up to the occasion or even scored in double figures and the hosts lacked the necessary firepower to become truly dangerous.
Barcelona saw its lead getting lead reduced to 13 twice in the fourth period but Calathes scored for the 62 – 77 and then the 64 – 79 to push back Real’s comeback efforts. Dante Exum, one of Barca’s standouts, put the exclamation mark to his team’s win with a dunk for the 68 – 84.
“I think we just stuck together as a team,” Exum said. “I think they got to [within] 15 at one point and we had to keep going, keep going and keep playing the pressure. The crowd starting to get into it a bit, but we stuck together as a team.”
Exum had an important contribution with 13 points (seven in the first quarter), two steals and a tremendous defensive effort. Brandon Davies scored 11 while Calathes finished with 10 points apart from five dimes. He needed two more to become the new EuroLeague all-time assists king, something that will most likely happen on Barca’s next game vs. Zenit St. Petersburg on February 27.
“Of course, it was not a good week for us,” Real Madrid coach Pablo Laso said. “Both teams [Fenerbahce and Barcelona] played very good. Offensively and defensively, we were not able to match up; neither offensively nor defensively. They got a big lead at the beginning and just held it. Well, we have a lot to improve and have to know where we are, and think about the next game.”
Barcelona is now 6-0 in their last six games against Real in Madrid.
Saras: Happy with the result and his players’ composure
Barcelona coach Sarunas Jasikevicius was naturally very satisfied with both the win and how his team shut down Real’s attempts to turn the game around.
“I want to congratulate our guys and our fans for this win,” Saras said. “I think that we deserved it. We came out really focused. We knew that after the last games, Real wanted to react and the start of the game was very important. The fact that we started hitting many shots clearly helped us get this 20-point lead, which was completely unexpected. Then it was a long time to go and we tried to stay focused. In some moments, it was difficult to keep that focus and we lost it a little bit. But once again, we were able to get back and take better decisions, and get the win, so we have to be very happy. It is a good result, we are very happy, we cannot hide it and we have to be proud of it. We have to be smart and know that in the next games, we start 0-0 and all this doesn’t count. We expected Real’s reaction. It is very difficult that any game is a 20-point one between these two teams. I told my players at halftime that it is not easy to play while you lead by 20. People may not understand me, but you are looking at the scoreboard, sometimes thinking everything is said and done. Others are looking at the clock to see how much time is left and all of a sudden, in modern basketball, the other team goes on a 10-0 run, 12-0 easily, especially Real on its own court. We managed to stop a couple of situations and that deserves credit. We were really focused until the end.”