Barcelona brought out its best version and ended the long journey through the desert that kept it away from the final phase of the Euroleague for seven years. He finally quelled the very brave resistance of Zenit St. Petersburg that bothered him so much during the first four games and overwhelmed him in the fifth and final. Pau Gasol remembered at times the one of his best times: he did everything, with seven points, three rebounds, three steals and four blocks, and the team led by Saras Jasikevicius was transformed and provided a vibrant, full image. Barcelona return to the meeting of the four best of the year, from May 28 to 30 in Cologne, where they will face for a place in the final with Armani Milan, who also beat Bayern Munich 92-89 in the fifth game . In the other semifinal, CSKA Moscow and Anadolu Efes will meet.
The match at the Palau Blaugrana produced a double liberating effect for Barcelona, seized during the previous four against the opposition of a Russian squad camouflaged after its alleged inferiority, and nevertheless effective, inspired and strategically superior, regardless of the results. Barça, unable to impose its law with the forcefulness that was expected and after the fiasco of the fourth game that filled him with doubts and placed him in a terminal situation, appeared in the fifth with the rhythm, poise and success that he exhibited in many of the victories he accumulated in the regular season. He dominated from start to finish and was stretching his lead to 23 points (57-34). He did not lower the piston until the end, he even increased the thrashing coinciding with the end: 79-63. He needed a demonstration of power, the redemption of the doubts that gripped him in the previous duels. He fully succeeded.
If Kevin Pangos, the turbine of the Zenit game, scored a triple; Calathes gave it back. If Hanga lost a ball in a penetration attempt, he did not hesitate in the next action to culminate a counterattack. If Davies screwed up and went to the bench with just two minutes played, he would return to the court to make the Zenit centers dizzy. Pau Gasol made himself strong behind with intimidation and blocks and asserted his physical size and his quality in front. While Higgins, based on penetrations, and Kuric, in the triples, added fuel to the Barça attack. Bolmaro, the 20-year-old Argentine guard-guard, burst in with a couple of sparks that honored the Minnesota Timberwolves’ interest in taking him to the NBA as soon as possible. His mate, between the two towers of Zenit, Black and Poythress, was stunning.
The Barcelona defense made a dent in Zenit. The discomfort of his inside players was translated into a modest percentage on two shots (34%), and his outside players were even worse (5 hits on 22 shots of three). Poythress was the only one who kept constant in attack. Will Thomas did not dominate as in previous games, although he continued to contain in defense a Mirotic who was definitely not happy with Zenit. The Barça dominated in all the aspects, shone especially in the triples, with 9 hits in 16 shots. Almost all its players recovered the good feelings of a few weeks ago when they won the Cup and finished first in the regular phase of the Euroleague. In Cologne, they will again compete for the title they have not won since 2010.
Barça: Calathes (12), Higgins (15), Abrines (0), Mirotic (7), Davies (11) -starting team-; Hanga (7), Bolmaro (7), Pau Gasol (7), Oriola (9), Smits (0), Kuric (11) and Claver (2).
Zenit Saint Petersburg: Pangos (7), Hollins (5), Rivers (0), Will Thomas (7), Black (3) -starting team-; Zakharov (1), Fridzon (4), Baron (9), Khvostov (0), Zubkov (6) and Poythress (11).
Partial: 23-14, 20-16, 14-9 and 22-14
Referees: Lottermoser, Latiseus and Hordov.
Palau Blaugrana. Behind closed doors.