After a poor start to the EuroLeague season, Barcelona are aiming to turn the corner in 2018.
They are making progress to this aim, with Thursday’s 85-72 win over giants CSKA Moscow a huge step in the right direction.
“We are really happy with the way we worked and like I said before the game, we don’t have many chances to make it to the playoffs – it goes down to winning this kind of games, and we did it tonight,” said Barcelona veteran Juan Carlos Navarro, who at 37 didn’t miss a beat in the win as he rolled back the years with 10 points in a majestical, all-around showing.
But it wasn’t just the points spread for Navarro that made his performance worth noting, it was what he did away from the statsheet that was to be admired. Being a leader, defensively, and providing that spark that made life difficult for what was a free-scoring CSKA side.
Normally the Muscovites bully their opponents into submission by playing their brand of basketball complete with their own tempo. But, as a sell-out crowd at the Palau Blaugrana witnessed, that tempo didn’t belong to them, it belonged to the hosts.
“We controlled the game rhythm against a team like CSKA, which is not easy,” Navarro said. “We all helped on defence, focused on what we had to do. Our fans were amazing and that always helps, too. We have to be happy with this win, but there is a long road ahead of us.”
There is a long road ahead, agreed. But Barcelona are on the right path. They have recorded two straight wins against tough opposition. Along with Navarro, fellow veteran Victor Claver believes that the brand of play shown in the win over the 2016 EuroLeague winners is the key to more victories down the road.
“It was a great win for us, especially because of the opponent,” said Claver.
“It is very difficult to play so well against CSKA and I believe we played with great intensity from the beginning of the game. We set the tempo and our second unit kept it going after a good start, as well as our fans.
“We are reaching out further to contest shots, switching more on defence and playing tougher, with more intensity. That allows us to run the floor better, which is also very important.”