Barcelona are this year’s EuroLeague finalists together with Anadolu Efes, after the Catalans beat Olimpia Milano with a last-second winner from Cory Higgins at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne on Friday.
In a set of semi-finals only available to a fan wall with both games played behind closed doors due to COVID-19 restrictions in Germany, both Final Four games lived up to the excitement. But Barcelona’s game against Milan could not have been any closer as it ended 84-82 in favour of Saruna Jasikevicius’s men.
Despite the win, the Lithuanian coach was not impressed by his side’s performance and admitted it was luck which saw them over the line.
“Of course, it was going to be difficult,” he said, “But we were giving Milan everything, and I think we’re fortunate to have come out on top.”
Barca’s star man Nikola Mirotic led the team with 21 points and six rebounds, with guard Nick Calathes adding 17 points before leaving the court injured and will be a doubt for Sunday’s final.
“It’s an amazing win,” Mirotic said, “You couldn’t relax and we really fought through.
“The job is not done yet. Hopefully (Nick) Calathes will be ok for Sunday.”
The game had a very energetic start with momentum going from one side to the other. Barcelona started off more accurate with 73% made from the field to take the first quarter, with Milan too rash in their play.
Barca’s good looks led to Pau Gasol being the first player to reach double-digits in the first half. The Spanish veteran is on the road to becoming the second player to win the World Cup, the NBA, the European Cup, and – depending on Sunday – the EuroLeague. The only player to have achieved this before is former Chicago Bulls player Toni Kukoc.
Barca took an 11-point lead with seconds to go before the half and Milan coach Ettore messina was visibly distraught during the break, calling his team’s performance ‘very soft’, admitting his side looked shy.
However, Milan looked a changed side after the break as they stepped up their game and took a four-point lead. Kevin Punter led the game in scoring with 23 points, as Vladimir Micov added 14, and Shavon Shields ended the night with 13.
Lead changes were aplenty in the second half but Barca’s greatest worry was Calathes’s injury after he landed awkwardly from a mid-air pass with 3.22 to go in the fourth.
Kevin Punter tied things up for Milan with a minute and a half to go as they game was tit-for-tat. But in the last possession, Cory Higgins was spot on to send Barca to the Championship game with only 0.5 seconds to go. Messina called a timeout to try and replicate the side’s Game One victory over Bayern Munich in the previous round, but the game ended in favour of Barcelona.
Barcelona play Anadolu Efes on Sunday, while Milan face CSKA Moscow in the third-place game earlier on in the day.