With the important accolade of Thursday’s titanic victory in the Palau Blaugrana in front of Anadolu Efes turco, current champion of the Euroleague, the Barça resumes this Sunday (12:30 p.m.) its journey in the Endesa League with a demanding visit to the track of the Valencia Basket.
The best news for Sarunas Jasikevicius’s men is having overcome the coronavirus outbreak that greatly limited the team’s activity over the last two weeks, both in games and in training, with seven positives among the players on the squad.
This conditioning factor, added to a highly difficult calendar, led to a fateful start to 2022 for the Barça team, which last Sunday fell in extra time against Baxi Manresa in the Endesa League (95-96) and on Tuesday in the Euroleague against the Italian AX Armani Exchange Milan (73-75).
The lack of rhythm had taken its toll, but on Thursday Barça drew strength from their weakness in the heat of their fans to defeat Anadolu Efes (82-77) with a great defensive choral performance and the remarkable contribution, both in directing the game and in the annotation, of the 21-year-old point guard Rokas Jokubaitis.
“Jokubaitis is maturing a lot. It’s not that he’s taking advantage of the opportunities, it’s that he’s giving us victories. He has already decided many games this season”, he declared this Thursday. Saras Jasikevicius over his compatriot, Barça’s offensive leader with 16 points and author of the final basket a few seconds from the end.
A special victory for the Catalan team, since Anadolu Efes was their executioner in the last Euroleague final, and that ended a streak of three consecutive losses in all competitions.
The next step for Jasikevicius’ men is to confirm the change in trend with a league win that, at the same time, keeps them in the fight for first place, which Real Madrid occupies (15-1) with four wins and two games more than the azulgranas (11-3), who are second.
Three last visits, three wins
However, beating Valencia Basket (9-6) will not be an easy task, as those from Joan Penarroya on November 14, winning at the Palau Blaugrana (79-87) with a great game by Cuban power forward Jasiel Rivero (18 points and 7 rebounds) and shooting guard Xabier López-Arostegui (17 points).
Likewise, Barça, undefeated away from home this season in the Endesa League, has won their last three visits to La Fonteta. In last season’s victory (64-80), shooting guard Álex Abrines stood out with 23 points, whose return is not scheduled until the end of January at the earliest after undergoing surgery in September for a patellofemoral injury to his left knee.
The return of the pivot Pierre Oriola, absent in the last three games due to an overload in the right sacroiliac joint, is closer, although his contest this Sunday still seems unlikely.
The great novelty in the call could be the reappearance of the point guard Nick Calathes, away from the tracks since November 17 due to a proximal fracture in the left fibula and that hastens the final phase of his recovery.
“He has trained about five or ten minutes with the group. In the following matches you have options to appear. He will be coming in little by little as Cory (Higgins). These people are very important to us and we have to integrate them”, acknowledged Jasikevicius after the game against Anadolu Efes.