Barcelona returns to the stage where Zenit de Saint Petersburg has taken away the leading role he played during the season and placed him as a candidate to be in the Final Four and as one of the great favorites to win the Euroleague. The fifth game, this Tuesday at the Palau Blaugrana (9:00 p.m., DAZN), will determine the result of a surprising script because the team led by Saras Jasikevicius and led by Nikola Mirotic was expected to underline its superiority and display the potential that allowed it to win the Cup. del Rey and finish leader in the regular phase of the European competition.
The four games of the quarter-final series, with two defeats and two victories for each team, have left Jasikevicius and his players on edge. They have performed below their accustomed level, hampered by the strategic proposal of Xavi Pascual, the Catalan coach of the Russian team, and the exuberance of the collective game led by another former blue-gray, Canadian point guard Kevin Pangos, with an average of 18.5 points and 6.5 assists in contrast to that of Barça guard Calathes: 9.3 points and 4.3 assists.
The low contribution of Mirotic (30 years) is one of the most striking deficiencies in the behavior of the Barcelona squad. Its production has fallen almost to half of what it obtained during the regular phase. In the four games against Zenit, almost always very well neutralized by the American power forward Will Thomas, champion of the ACB League in 2017 with Valencia, Mirotic has seen his production reduced: 9 points, with a 28% accuracy in shots of two, and 3.8 rebounds on average in contrast to the 17 points, with a 42% accuracy, and 6.3 rebounds in the 26 games he played in the regular phase.
Zenit has also stopped Calathes and corrected his defense over Brandon Davies, the most outstanding in the first three games and the architect of Barça’s second triumph (70-78) with 22 points and 8 rebounds, who could not score even a basket in the fourth match (74-61). The American centers of Zenit, Black and Poythress, were very effective in marking Davies, Oriola and Pau Gasol, who is barely playing, and they also added 23 points and 11 rebounds between them. The Russian team has been very competitive despite not being able to count on Polish forward Ponitka and Lithuanian center Gudaitis, injured.
Jasikevicius made two capital errors after the fourth game, the worst of his team. “They can’t score us 25 points in the first quarter committing only three fouls. You have to play much harder and more disciplined, “he said. “And we shouldn’t be surprised by any zone defense [la que utilizó con éxito el Zenit], neither combined, nor anything. You cannot lose by 14 rebounds a game that can take you to the Final Four after seven years, “he said in reference to the last time that Barça was in the appointment of the four best, in 2014.” In this series we have not still played a very good full game. This is what we are going to try. We have worked for eight months to play this game at home ”.
Barcelona’s attacking difficulties in their duel against Zenit are expressed in that they only reach a 44% success rate in two-point shots, far from 55% during the regular phase. And he has also thrown far fewer 3-pointers, 59, than his rival, 83.
“Points are missing. In some moments we have not found good solutions. We are having difficulty scoring from the basket ”, Jasikevicius analyzed after the defeat in Saint Petersburg. “They make a lot of changes and our big man stays paired with one of his little ones, but we don’t even score. You have to have confidence in the boys. Maybe it has caught us at a bad time this playoff, but it is no excuse. You have to play better ”, sentence.