Barcelona Hold Off Bilbao Basket In Defensive Showcase

Courtesy of fcbarcelona.com
Courtesy of fcbarcelona.com

Barcelona held off Bilbao Basket in a low scoring 66-57 home win in the ACB on Wednesday night.

Barcelona managed this defensive showing without Moussa Diagne or Tomas Satoransky who sat out the game and lost Alex Abrines in the early stages of the game as he limped off the court. Given the loss of Satoransky and Abrines Barcelona had to get creative with its guards as when Carlos Arroyo was on the bench a rotation of Juan Carlos Navarro, Pau Ribas and Brad Oleson were charged with bringing the ball up the floor.

Navarro filled the role most typically with five assists and 11 points, but Ribas led scoring for the home side with no less than 17 points on 60% shooting from the field as well making four assists and three rebounds. The 28 year old almost beat his season high of 18 points which he scored in Seville in the second game of the season.

Bilbao kitted out in a garishly white sleeved jersey got off to a good start scoring 11 of the first 14 registered points in the opening quarter including three threes before going cold and allowing Barcelona to go on a 13-0 run. Dairis Bertans was their saving grace providing six of those first 11 points off two three pointers and a third three late in the quarter to stall Barcelona’s run. Bertans managed to score a further eight points in the second quarter, including a four point play but could only follow up with two more points in the second half, enough to lead scoring in the game but not carry the team to a road win.

Alex Mumbru was the only other Bilbao player to hit double figures, scoring 15 points. The remainder of their roster either shot in low volume or with poor percentages. One second quarter sequence summed up Bilbao’s failure to capitalise on opportunities as Barcelona committed a back court violation, reach in foul and kicked ball consecutively yet none of the resulting plays ended in points for Bilbao.

These kind of errors seem more usual on Barcelona’s part than earlier in the season when their offence ran a little more clockwork-like. In those earlier games Arroyo would deal some fancy passes, often behind the back, that would wow the crowd and leave the opposition reeling. Of late though that seems to have gone a bit awry. In the second quarter Arroyo attempted some class of a fancy lay up or lob in transition that ended up being a desperate tip in by Justin Doellman, leaving Arroyo’s effort in a flashy and lucky grey area between shot and assist when it should have been a straightforward basket.

Not to pick on Arroyo too much but his showier nature looks fantastic when things go well but foolish when they fail and highlight some of the weaker points in the offensive system. Earlier in the same quarter it took two attempts from Arroyo to get the ball to Shane Lawal in the air for a successful alley’ oop, something that seemed a bit smoother in previous games. The successful ‘oop was an and1 play as Lawal was fouled on his flight to the basket, and incidentally after missing the free throw potentially due to Bilbao moving into the paint too early was given a second chance at the penalty shot and scored it, keeping it spiritually aligned with the original alley ‘oop.

For such a defensive and low scoring game it felt surprisingly free flowing with both sides thankfully using time-outs sparingly and only 29 free throws taken in total. Perhaps the players and coaches were looking forward to a couple of days off for Christmas before returning to the grind on Sunday when Barcelona will travel to Real Madrid and Bilbao Basket will host Joventut Badalona.