Barcelona lifted a huge weight off their shoulders by defeating a Zenit in Saint Petersburg that has become a nightmare, fearsome and difficult even in defeat. The display of Brandon Davies and the aim of Higgins and Kuric solved the ballot for the Barça team, which suffered again, but arrived at the end with an income of between eight and ten points that saved them from any last minute errors. After the first battle in Saint Petersburg, he dominates the quarter-final series 2-1 and is one triumph away from reaching the Final Four that he has not played since 2014.
The challenge responded to what Zenit had already shown in their two excellent performances at the Palau Blaugrana. Barça spent half a game looking for itself. His game was not flowing. His mistakes were happening. He did not know how to properly read the Zenit defense. When Calathes did not lose it, Pau Gasol threw a triple that did not touch or ring, Abrines, being a specialist, missed the second he threw in the whole series, Davies made steps or Mirotic committed his second offensive foul very soon. The Montenegrin player had to go to the bench with only two points and six minutes played in the first half.
Zenit overcame a faltering start during which they spent three and a half minutes without scoring against the defensive intensity in the one on one of Barcelona. But the Russian team, in addition to still not giving up much ground (0-6), paid their rival with the same coin. It was difficult for Barça to score. And the Russian squad, despite the fact that the Barça defense prevented Pangos from inflicting the damage in the scoring of the first two games, exploited Poythress’s ability near the rim, the wide shots of Rivers and Baron and took a substantial first income (28-21).
Barça had survived thanks to three triples from Kuric. And precisely he came back on the basis of more triples (8 of 14 at the end) and with the returns of the movements and the effectiveness of Davies in the interior of the zone. The Philadelphia center took so much confidence that he dared and also hit with a pair of triples. Mirotic’s improvement in the second half and Davies’ vigor accelerated the scoring rhythm of Barcelona that took advantage (42-52). Nothing when Zenit is ahead, a team that sticks to matches with admirable tenacity, without despair, with perfect management of its defensive efforts and its options in attack. While their centers showed enormous wear and tear in the task of stopping the unleashed Davies, they found the executing hand of Billy Baron. The US guard-guard added 8 points in a row, 19 at the end, and tightened the score again (54-55).
That happened after Pangos, in the fight for a defensive rebound, suffered a blow and had to be treated in the locker room. Poythress had to go to the bench, eliminated, with seven minutes to go. But Barça also suffered the terrible wear and tear of the battle with the fourth fouls by Davies and Mirotic, who had reopened an important lead (58-66). Hanga and Higgins, based on steals, rebounds and baskets, kept Barça ahead. Zenit always found a way to iron out differences. When it was not Will Thomas, it was Pangos who, once the wound closed, returned with more offensive aggressiveness and marksmanship (66-70). But Davies, once again, was in charge of settling the issue and putting Barça one step away from its goal: the Final Four in Cologne on May 28.
Zenith: Pangos (10), Rivers (8), Hollins (1), Will Thomas (10), Black (8) -starting team-; Zakharov (0), Baron (19), Khvostov (0), Zubkov (0) and Poythress (14).
Barcelona: Calathes (7), Higgins (16), Abrines (1), Mirotic (11), Davies (22) -starting team-; Hanga (6), Bolmaro (0), Smits (0), Pau Gasol (2), Oriola (0), Sergi Martínez (0) and Kuric (13).
Partial: 16-16, 17-18, 18-21 and 19-23.
Referees: Boltauzer, Hordov and Nikolic. They eliminated Poythress (m.33) and Black (m. 39) and signaled a technique to the Zenit bench.
Sibur Arena in Saint Petersburg. 5,187 spectators. Barça dominates the series 2-1. The fourth game is played in Saint Peterburg this Friday (19.00, DAZN).