Mirotic revives Barcelona against Madrid
Mirotic, with Calathes in the foreground, celebrates Barça's triumph at the Palau.
Mirotic, with Calathes in the foreground, celebrates Barça’s triumph at the Palau.Enric Fontcuberta (EFE)

After the first game and a defeat with hardly a peep, it was sensed that this Barça was bottomless, that it lacked confidence and even basketball. It could even be said that he smelled of singe because Jasikevicius’s demanding message of electrifying the games from start to finish did not seem to reach the locker room. It also seemed so at the beginning of the clash, the Barça team intemperate. But with Mirotic you don’t play. It didn’t matter if they put Yabusele, Deck, the two on top… The power forward took the ball, the leading role and all the pressure to lead Barcelona to a replenishing victory that evens the series, now with two games to go. dispute in Madrid.

As if the first game hadn’t finished, Madrid started burning. Hanga explained it, who in less than 15 seconds was already hanging from the hoop; Yabusele underlined it with a shot to the board and Deck corroborated it, who entered the basket like Pedro for his house. In one of those, moreover, he ran over Sanli to make it clear that the Turk – he forced himself to play after spraining his ankle in the last game of the semifinal series against Joventut – was not up for much jogging. Stunned by a devastating start, Barça chained turnovers as they searched for Mirotic without success. A partial of 0-8 that was extended to 4-14. Until Laprovittola and Jokubaitis entered to run and impress intensity, also to make up the first quarter (13-17) and feed the joy of Palau, all aware that never before has a series been traced in the final that began with a 0 -two.

It is curious, in any case, and against a rival that shows muscle like Madrid, that Jasikevicius continues to bet on Hayes-Davis, anonymous for a long time, and does not include Exum, an energetic player like few others, in the call. The one who did enter for Madrid, after three games biting his nails on the bench, was Llull, already recovered from his muscle rupture. This is how Chus Mateo estimated it because someone was missing to run the show; because Hanga and Causeur are escorts; and also because the white team made waters from the perimeter, as they holed two of 15 shots from three until the intermission. But neither Llull nor the players who were out of the starting lineup contributed much compared to Barça’s substitutes, who added rebounds (Smits, Jokubaitis) and points (Laprovittola and Davies), as well as the pride and honor that the team seemed to have lost by the way. Not even the lack of offensive rebounds, once again Barça’s weakness because there is no Dennis Rodman worth it, prevented Calathes, after a costume to Tavares and a layup, put Barcelona ahead (26-24) for the first time in the duel after 16 minutes. At the break, however, they left in a draw (32-32).

Nikola’s inspiration

Barcelona awaited its star like May water and Nikola Mirotic asked for a turn after the break, scorer of the first seven points for the azulgrana. It happened that his teammates didn’t help him too much at the time that Madrid continued doing their thing in the bottle, annoying and thunderous the Palau especially when Hanga returned to make a mate at the moment in which Calathes was lying on the ground because there was bumped his head into Davies’s in search of a ball. So strong was the blow that they had to sew up his cheekbone before he returned to the field, to battle. The one in which Llull was already, as he was in charge of remembering, to open the gap again (46-52); the one in which Mirotic continued —12 points in the fourth— and Laprovittola joined to close the third half for Barça (56-54).

Another who likes to compete and run is Jokubaitis, who was applauded by the fans when he was substituted, needing a break for the work done (65-57). But his rest made Barcelona indigestible, Laprovittola foolish with three consecutive triple releases, excellently answered by Yabusele (65-65). It happened then that everyone was shaken, a succession of missed free throws, losses, blocks… Until Mirotic returned to the scene, of course. “I don’t want shots from Mirotic released!”, claimed Chus Mateo at the beginning of the penultimate time out. But not with those. His was the ball, the game and the victory that left Barcelona alive. “Nikola Mirotic, la, la, la, la, lalala!” Shouted the fans at the end of the match as a sign of recognition, also of gratitude. It was not be for lowerly.

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