FC Barcelona holds on sending nemesis Real Madrid to a 1-4 start
FC Barcelona dominated the first half of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 5 Clasico and went on for the win, 79-72, versus Real Madrid Friday at the Palau Blaugrana.
With Nikola Mirotic sidelined and Victor Claver also out, Kyle Kuric punched in a team-high 15 points, including ten in the key second quarter. Brandon Davies summed up 14 points and Cory Higgins 13 combining for eight in the challenging fourth period and completing the three-man double-digit scoring pack.
“We knew it was going to be a fight. I mean, games with them are never easy, so we knew they were going to come out physical,” mentioned Higgins after the match, “We weathered the storm enough, but we have to be able to hold that lead better in the future.”
Sergi Martinez banked all of his seven points in the fourth quarter and also pulled down nine rebounds. The youngster connected from beyond the arc for a 67-56 lead and added two buckets for his side’s last four points. His previous briefer appearances in Europe’s premier club competition featured only one point and three rebounds.
“I am glad about the way we fought back and just took a team effort to keep the lead,” claimed Davies, “I just tried to play hard and do everything I can for my team. A lot of guys stepped up today, it was not just me. A lot of guys did the intangibles. I have to give them credit, too.”
The visitors had Trey Thompkins at 14 points and Alberto Abalde at 13. A second-half rally cut the 23-point deficit to five points down the stretch but an epic comeback was not on the cards in the behind closed doors Spanish derby.
“It was shocking that Madrid down 20 would play more aggressive, right? Very shocking! Of course, what are they going to do?,” said Barca boss Sarunas Jasikevicius, “They raised the level of their play, played at the level of the foul.”
“I don’t really care what other teams do,” stated the top-scorer of the losing side, Thompkins, “If we play hard for 40 minutes, we are better than a lot of people. For me, I would rather just focus on my teammates, focus on my coach and myself, and do everything I can to be better. We just have to come together. Right now, we are a little bit in a bad place, but we have been here before. It is not the first time.”
The “W” against its longstanding rival pumped up Jasikevicius’ side to a 3-0 home tally and 4-1 overall. Up next, a couple of ACB games prior to the TD Systems Baskonia road EuroLeague challenge next Friday.
The team coached by Pablo Laso put up a fight late but still fell to 1-4 failing to prevail on the road for the third time in as many 2020-21 EuroLeague contests.
“It was very difficult in the first half to match up with them,” admitted Laso, “We were not matching up defensively or offensively. We were taking bad shots and were late on defense. So in the first half, they outplayed us.”
“I think that our second half was much better,” he added, “We showed desire and somehow, we tried to come back to the game using our defensive changes. We opened up the floor more but it was not enough to come back.”
“We were close to completing the comeback. We played a good second half but due to our bad first half, we couldn’t get the win,” pointed out Usman Garuba following his eight-point showing, “We are a bit angry but have to keep working.”
Similar to Barcelona, the Whites also have scheduled ACB games Sunday and Tuesday. Back to Europe’s premier club competition, they will host FC Bayern Munich next Thursday.