Barcelona needed a win to get their confidence back, and they got it at one of the toughest venues in Europe. And they even managed to do it without Navarro, in a game that has shown that when they believe in themselves, this Barça team is capable of beating anybody anywhere.
There was one man in particular to thank for the win in Istanbul: Marcelinho Huertas. With Navarro out with hamstring trouble, a new leader was required. In the first half, Oleson took control, and after the break it was Huertas who took ten almost consecutive points to put an end to Fenerbahçe’s challenge. The 73-76 win puts Barcelona 2-0 in the Top 16 ahead of next week’s visit to Olympiakos.
Barça’s first eight minutes were majestic. They went 2-7 up before things had hardly warmed up and despite a slight reaction from the home side (13-9), Oleson and Papanikolaou soon had the Catalans five ahead (18-23).
The pace was right, the rebounds under control and the defending tight, and Barça still looked in control at half-time, even though the scores were level at 39-39. There were simply no signs of weakness in the FCB game, and things bode very well indeed for the third and fourth periods.
Oleson and Bjelica were the protagonists of a scoring duel at either end of the court early in the second half. But although Barça were still clearly in command, some expert strategies masterminded by home coach Obradovic ensured that the Turks remained, extraordinarily, in contention (56-58). But the best was yet to come.
Marcelinho Huertas (who ended with 23 points and 7 assists) took the reins of the game and did so in style, and more importantly, grabbed points too. It was ten almost consecutive points of his that finally drove Barcelona to the win.
He was the man to thank for the 67-72 scoreline with just moments left, and also for the free throw that definitively clinched things in Barça’s favour (73-76), with Fenerbahçe failing in their desperate attempt to secure a last second draw from a 3-pointer. The win was important but so was the message it sent out to the rest of the basketball world: this team is very much still alive and kicking.