Barcelona's guard depth proved pivotal against Maccabi
FC Barcelona started Tuesday night's game against Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv with Tomas Satoransky and Nicolas Laprovittola as its starting guard duo, but instead it was a couple of guards who came off the bench that helped the Spanish team get the win: Cory Higgins and Rokas Jokubaitis.
In Barca's clásico defeat to archrival Real Madrid in Round 20, Satoransky scored 12 points and Laprovittola added 8, meaning they combined for 20 points. Meanwhile, Higgins recorded 10 points on the night, whereas Jokubaitis had just 2.
The story was somewhat different in Round 21, with Higgins and Jokubaitis being Barca's leading scorers on 15 and 14 points, respectively. Satoransky had 9, while Laprovittola finished with 5 points to his name.
It wasn’t just the totals that Higgins and Jokubaitis scored, though. Instead, it was the timing of their baskets. With both players having come off the bench, Jokubaitis hit from behind the arc in the latter stages of the first quarter to give Barca a 20-15 lead. Higgins was scoreless in the opening 10 minutes.
In the second quarter, Jokubaitis scored Barca's first points of the quarter as he saw another three-pointer fall, making it 23-18, while Higgins went on to 6 points before halftime. After the break, Higgins scored a two-pointer midway through the third quarter before Jokubaitis went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 1:13 to make it a 5-point game entering the fourth, 62-67.
Indeed, in the final quarter of play, Jokubaitis first stepped up by making a pair of two-pointers as Barca trimmed the gap, 68-72. Then, with 3:32 remaining, Higgins hit a three-pointer to give Barca its first lead since early in the third quarter, 76-74. With 2:30 left on the clock, Higgins got across to block Wade Baldwin's three-point attempt, and 13 seconds later, he made both of his free throws. When there was 1:11 to go, Higgins continued his heroics by staying ice cool at the line once again, as he gave Barca an 8-point lead, 82-74.
Barca went on to win the game, completing the regular-season sweep against Maccabi and making amends for its loss in the clásico last Thursday night, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the play of Higgins and Jokubaitis off the bench.
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