And that’s two wins out of two. After beating Joventut 96-92 in the first game of their six.-team playoff group, Barça have now beaten Unicaja Malaga 84-73, despite trailing at the break. Thomas Heurtel returned to action for the first time since an ankle injury in February, and Mirotic and Tomic led the scoring with 19 and 16.
Unicaja surged to +9 in just four minutes, and Barça missed four 3-point attempts as they sought a way back in, and still trailed 20-14 at the end of the first period. Solid defence and powering attacks produced a big swing in affairs in the second period, and an 8-0 streak fired Barça into the lead. Mirotic’s eight points did wonders for the blaugrana, although it was Unicaja who still had the edge at the interval: 41-38.
Amazingly only Higgins, Claver and Kuric managed to nail three 3-pointers out of 18 attempts, but the free throw story was very different, with 20 out of 28, and that meant that the Catalans led by six going into the final period.
And that’s when things truly started to click. Kuric, Mirotic and Tomic banged Barça to +19, and from there it was plain sailing. A game that had sometimes looked like it was slipping away ended up being a comfortable win, with Baskonia, who beat Iberostar Tenerife, the only other side has won its two first games. And that’s who Barça play next, on Sunday at 9.30pm CEST.
Unicaja: Thompson (12), Adams (6), Gerun (8), Bouteille (5), Mekel (6), Brizuela (5), Díaz (2), Elegar (7), Simonovic (-), Waczynski (13), Guerrero (2), Suárez (7).
Barça: Higgins (7), Hanga (11), Claver (7), Mirotic (19), Davies (10), Smits (-), Heurtel (-), Oriola (2), Abrines (2), Kuric (10), Tomic (16).
Periods: 20-14 / 41-38 / 56-61 / 73-84
Referees: Juan Carlos García, Óscar Perea & Javier Torres.