The Blaugrana trailed by 12 points at halftime, before winning the second half 51-31.
Second-half defense sparked Barcelona comeback against Fenerbahce
There were not many smiles in the stands when the halftime buzzer sounded at Palau Blaugrana on Friday night. In fact, the only happy faces were of those fans who were there in support of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, not Roger Grimau’s FC Barcelona.
Scottie Wilbekin had just nailed a buzzer-beating floater to make it 38-50 for the visitors, who struggled in the opening stages but looked comfortable on offense in the second quarter. Barcelona boasted the fourth-best defense in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with 77.3 points allowed per game heading into Friday’s clash, but they had already conceded 50 after 20 minutes.
Barcelona went to another level on defense
Big changes were needed in the second half and this is exactly what Coach Grimau must have transmitted to his players at the break, because Barca hit the ground running in the third quarter.
The hosts outscored Fenerbahce 25-14 to bring the game within 63-64 heading into the final period, with their defense being totally dominant and nullifying Fenerbahce’s offensive weapons en route to an eventual 89-81 win. For instance, Wilbekin and Dorsey netted a combined 16 points in the first half, but they managed just 7 after the break.
“We defended very close to the excellent [in the second half],” Grimau said after the game. “We defended on their shooters, we controlled the rebounds and after that we could be more dynamic on offense. The game was really ugly at halftime and I’m really happy we won this game.”
The two teams may have recorded a similar figure on turnovers (9-10), but it was the deflections on defense along with the energy and the way Barcelona players put their bodies on the line in the second half that allowed it to complete the comeback.
“In the second half the game became more difficult, unfortunately,” Fenerbahce head coach Dimitris Itoudis noted. “They pushed us out with their aggressiveness full court, took many seconds out of our creativity and forced us to take bad shots in the last seconds.”
Fenerbahce couldn’t deal with Willy Hernangomez
Willy Hernangomez had an MVP sort of night off the bench, allowing the hosts to win the battle in the paint. His 21 points, having gone 10-for-13 from inside the arc, were as important as his 5 offensive rebounds (9 in total) that led to second chances.
The Barcelona center, along with the always-clutch Nicolas Laprovittola, who made some big shots and ended the game with 15 points, inspired their team to an 89-81 victory.
“[The second half was] much better than our first half,” Hernangomez stressed. “I think that we executed the plan in the second half and this is the way we need to play – executing the plan from minute zero to minute 40.
“That’s Barcelona: a team that plays really good defense, having fun on offense, sharing the ball with each other. We gave everything we had to come back into this game. I am super proud of this team.”
Following an 80-75 defeat at Virtus Segafredo Bologna on Wednesday, Barcelona managed to get back to winning ways and improved to a 10-3 record, the second-best record in the EuroLeague. Most importantly, the Blaugrana protected their home court, where they have won six games from six this season.
Their next game is at home, too, as Barcelona hosts EA7 Emporio Armani Milan next Friday in Round 14, when Coach Grimau’s side will look to build on its momentum.