Higgins and Mirotic shine as Barcelona holds on in Kaunas
FC Barcelona outlasted Zalgiris Kaunas to take a 86-93 victory at a packed Zalgirio Arena on Friday. The visiting team got ahead early on and protected a solid lead throughout the first half, before Zalgiris fought back hard in the second half and briefly led. But Barcelona stayed strong in the final period to claim its sixth win of the season. Cory Higgins was on fire in the second half, making 5 of 5 three-pointers in a career-high total of 27 points to inspire his team to victory. Nikola Mirotic was also outstanding, combining 24 points and 6 rebounds. Zach LeDay top scored for the home team with 16 points, while Jock Landale (10), Marius Grigonis (14), Thomas Walkup (11) and Arturas Milaknis (11) also reached double figures. Barcelona improves to 6-1 for a share of the lead of the standings, while Zalgiris is now 3-4.
A big dunk from Landale and a triple from Alex Perez opened the scoring, but Rolands Smits answered with 5 points and a three-point play from Mirotic made it 5-8. Mirotic scored two more baskets but Lukas Lekavicius and Nigel Hayes were on target to keep it close until Mirotic continued his early masterclass to make it 12-19. Lekavicius twice penetrated to score in a 6-0 run, and it was 20-23 at the end of the first quarter. Milaknis and Ante Tomic scored inside early in the second, and 9 fast points off the bench from Pierre Oriola kept Barcelona ahead, 28-34. Milaknis and Thomas Walkup struck from deep, but Tomic and Malcolm Delaney answered with layups. Adam Hanga struck from deep and Mirotic tipped in, before LeDay scored on the buzzer to make it 40-47 at half-time. LeDay’s dunk and fastbreak layup got the second half going, and LeDay scored again to tie it up at 47-47. Higgins netted the visiting team’s only field goal in the first 5 minutes of the quarter, but LeDay scored again to give Zalgiris a 51-50 edge. Barcelona moved ahead again through free throws, before three more scores from Higgins, including a buzzer-beating triple, made it 61-66 at the end of the third. Higgins struck two more triples at the start of the fourth and then added a driving score for a 64-74 lead. Zalgiris battled but a pair of baskets from Hanga maintained a double-digit margin. A three-point play by Grigonis and a layup by Walkup made it 77-82 with 3 minutes left, but a mid-range strike from Brandon Davies kept Barcelona ahead. Hayes struck from deep for 83-87, but Mirotic replied with free throws and a transition score by Delaney secured the outcome.
Ten out of ten for Mirotic
Nikola Mirotic excelled again, recording 13 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in the first quarter alone to send his team to victory. Barcelona’s summer signing has now scored at least 10 points in 10 consecutive EuroLeague games, a streak which started when he was still a Real Madrid player in the 2014 playoffs against Olympiacos.
LeDay heroics boost Zalgiris
A remarkable burst of action from Zach LeDay either side of half-time gave the game fresh life. Barca was leading 38-47 when LeDay picked up a loose ball to score the last points of the first half, then he opened the second quarter scoring with a big dunk, a fastbreak score, a free throw and a jump hook, giving LeDay a personal 9-0 run in the space of two minutes to level the game.
Higgins takes over
LeDay’s efforts were outdone by Cory Higgins, who almost single-handedly repelled Zalgiris’s big comeback with a flurry of points. The former CSKA Moscow guard netted 22 points in just over 10 minutes of action to bridge the third and fourth quarters, restoring a lead which would never be lost.
Davies honored on return to Kaunas
Former Zalgiris player Brandon Davies made his first return to Kaunas since leaving the club for Barca in the summer, and he was honored with a special pregame presentation and a standing ovation from his appreciative former fans, who were eager to show their gratitude for his outstanding two seasons with the club.
Barcelona is looking ahead to this season’s first Clasico with Thursday’s Round 8 trip to Real Madrid. A day later, Zalgiris travels to face Olympiacos in Piraeus.
Friday, November 8, 2019