The Offensive display of a lethal Cory Higgins after the break allowed Barça to score the first point of the final of the Endesa League in front of a Real Madrid that, although he dominated the first half, he was losing steam and ended up giving up the home court factor in a series to the best of three games that leaves him with no margin for error and forces him to win at the Palau to stay alive (75-89).
As happened in the Copa del Rey, where he was named best player (MVP), the American guard, with 26 points and fourteen without failure in a third quarter of clear visitor color (16-29), was the determining factor in the comeback that left the Spanish basketball classic sentenced and brings his team closer to a League that has resisted him since 2014.
Even if the best staging of the whitesWith Walter Tavares dominating under hoops and an effective defensive barrier, he placed him with a 7-0 start that forced Sarunas Jasikevicius to stop the game immediately before the disconnection of his in attack. The Catalans failed all their shots until, with a triple, Nick Calathes ended a scoring drought that lasted for four minutes.
The Barça coach pulled Pau Gasol to end the Tavares effect, author of 7 points and 8 rebounds in the first quarter. The measure took immediate effect. The duel gained in intensity and emotion thanks to the good work of the Catalan pivot and the gap came down to two points, although the faith of Pablo Laso’s men, already with Sergio Llull on the court, allowed them to confirm their dominance in the game and on the scoreboard at the end of a high-voltage first act (20- 15, min 10).
The greater intensity of the locals continued to favor the duel. They only suffered to overcome a Gasol who prolonged his good moment of play and was the best news for his team, which continued to suffer to score. When the Catalan pivot returned to the bench, Vincent Poirier became the owner in the painting and the offensive rebounds allowed Pablo Laso’s men to stay ahead, helped by the success of Fabien Causeur.
Little by little, and based on greater discipline behind, Barça was getting into the crash, although it continued to accuse the lack of an offensive reference and its mistake before the basket. Nor was the leader of the regular phase very fine of aim, so the baskets were scarce in that phase of the game.
In addition, the losses began to weigh down Real Madrid excessively and the awakening of Kyle Kuric, with two consecutive triples, tied the score a minute and a half before the break, which was reached with a slight white advantage and everything to be decided in the second half (36-33, min 20).
Again the whites came out more toned, with a 5-0 start. Jasikevicius railed in the band in search of a reaction and only the individual quality of his men prevented greater evils. Until Cory Higgins claimed his role and, with eight points in a row, put fear in the body of the hosts, who saw Calathes overtake his team for the first time halfway through the third quarter (44-46, min 25).
Then came a Mirotic’s triple that culminated a 0-12 run and forced Laso to request time out to stop the bleeding. Higgins continued to his own, destroying the white ring from all positions and the lack of response from Real Madrid, which was still missing in attack, set off the alarms on his bench when he was ten down after having dominated the classic for 25 minutes.
Mirotic continued to contribute to the scoring party of a Barça very different from the first twenty minutes, effective behind, explosive in attack and capable of endorsing his eternal rival in the third act a 16-29 that took him to the last ten minutes with a dozen mattress stitches as a reward (52-62, min 30).
The Catalan team followed their own, with the clearest ideas and the duel on track. To each blow of Pablo Laso’s men, they responded with the same coin. A technique to Rudy Fernández aggravated the situation, with the Catalans fifteen up with seven minutes to go.
Jeffery Taylor, with another technique and an unsportsmanlike one that forced him to go to the locker room, evidenced the derangement of a team that tried but accused his fatigue and was unable to approach a much more toned Barça, who did not suffer to keep his income and the first point of the series was scored without suffering. On Tuesday, at the Palau, he will seek to end a seven-year drought without lifting a league title.
75.- Real Madrid (20 + 16 + 16 + 23): Alocén (7), Abalde (7), Taylor (2), Tyus (4) and Tavares (16) -the starting five-, Rudy Fernández (10), Carroll (3), Poirier (5), Llull (8) , Vukcevic (-), Causeur (12) and Garuba (1).
89 – Barça (15 + 18 + 29 + 27): Calathes (12), Higgins (26), Hanga (6), Mirotic (9) and Davies (13) -starting team-, Abrines (-), Bolmaro (-), Smits (2), Pau Gasol (8) , Oriola (3), Kuric (10) and Westermann (-).
Referees: Carlos Peruga, Jordi Aliaga and Martín Caballero. They eliminated Usman Garuba for fouls and disqualified Jeffery Taylor after pointing out a technique and an unsportsmanlike behavior.
Incidents: First match of the Endesa League final, best of three, played at the WiZink Center in Madrid before a capacity reduced to a thousand spectators due to the pandemic.