By Eurohoops Team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
FC Barcelona remained second in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague standings, behind archrival Real Madrid.
Working hard to retain the lead down the stretch resulted in an 86-81 victory against Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet in Palau Blaugrana on Friday.
Jan Vesely banked in a game-winning 2+1 play with 1:23 on the clock, keeping huge outings from Jabari Parker and Willy Hernangomez on the winning end.
Parker, 28, finished with a team-high 20 points after creating a distance of five points with a key bucket in crunch time. In his best overseas showing so far, he made 10/12 from the field. “They exploited our weaknesses all game. Well-coached, well-operated. Hats go off to the opposing team,” he reacted to the tough win with praise to the team coached by Giannis Sfairopoulos.
“I am only as good as my teammates. They help me every day. They have been patient with me,” added the veteran of eight NBA seasons and newcomer to EuroLeague, “I am happy that I am here.”
Hernangomez, 29, followed with 18 points behind 6/8 field goals for the reigning ACB champions. Vesely put in six of his 14 points in the fourth period. Czech compatriot Tomas Satoransky overcame a slow start and a minor injury in his right elbow with ten points, six assists, and five rebounds.
Prevailing in Regular Season Round 7 signaled the tenth win in as many home games versus Zvezda and the tenth win in a row over meetings in either Barcelona or Belgrade. Youngster Michael Caicedo (right foot surgery) remained sidelined and Oriol Pauli was a healthy scratch.
Luka Mitrovic recorded a game-high 22 points but to no avail. During the third quarter, the Serbian forward also scored his 1,000th EuroLeague point. Fouling out with 12.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter merely confirmed the losing destination.
Roger Grimau’s side is up to 6-1 in Europe’s premier club continental competitions, including 4-0 at home. The visitors were forced down to 2-5, including 0-4 on the road.
“Every EuroLeague game is super tough. Every game matters,” Satoransky referred to the league’s official motto, “We have to keep going, trying to win as many games as possible. And trying to keep improving our game defensively and offensively.”
Missing the first 11 attempts from beyond the arc, the AdmiralBet Basketball League of Serbia champions fell into a 17-point hole midway through the second quarter. Dominating the boards with 44 versus 27, including 18 offensive rebounds, prevented a blowout and instead led to a brief tie down the stretch. However, they never got the lead in the latest unsuccessful visit to the city of Catalonia.
“We suffered a lot on the boards. They punished us a lot with this,” confessed Barca’s play-caller Grimau after his team improved to 15-2 in direct meetings with Zvezda, “We had character. And we had Palau. And we have the victory.”
Milos Teodosic piled up 13 points and nine assists. Dejan Davidovac had 12 points. Nemanja Nedovic tallied 11 points in his 200th showing with the Belgrade outfit. Hungarian Adam Hanga was ruled out for the game opposite his former team alongside captain Branko Lazic and Marko Simonovic.
“I think it was a game decided by small details at the end,” summed up head coach Sfairopoulos, “It was very important that we showed good character when we were behind by 17 points. We came back. Hopefully, we are going to improve on these last options to take better decisions on offense and defense, to win these type of games.”
Familiar surroundings for Barcelona and Zvezda
Before shifting into the next double-game week of the EuroLeague campaign, the Catalonia giant will host Lenovo Tenerife with a chance to improve to 7-2 in Spain’s Liga Endesa on Friday. ACB rivals, specifically a visit to Baskonia on Wednesday and a home affair versus Valencia on Friday follow at the continental level.
Returning home to take on Fenerbahce Beko on Tuesday and moving to Greece to face his former team Olympiacos on Thursday is the double-week challenge for Sfairopoulos. Meanwhile, sharing a league-high 5-1 in the AdmiralBet ABA League, his side will be on the road versus Zadar on Sunday.
Photo Credit: FC Barcelona Basket