One of the most anticipated games of the first round of the Euroleague season was played in Istanbul, where two contenders met, Anadolu Efes and FC Barcelona, the rematch of last season’s quarterfinal. Unfortunately, both teams are battling injuries, and the ones of Shane Larkin, Rodrigue Beaubois and Adrien Moerman proved to be too much for Efes. Barcelona, who is also missing two point guards (Thomas Heurtel and Kevin Pangos), started the game with Hanga in the point guard position and also three new signings in the starting 5 (Davies, Higgins and Mirotic). With the exception of the third quarter, Barca played a very solid game and dominated in every aspect: rebounds, assists, shooting percentages.
Nikola Mirotic returned to the Euroleague after 5 years and he is already an early candidate for the season MVP. His game is mature and he is a leader on the floor for Barca. Also, Malcolm Delaney showed that he should be a serious option even after Heurtel returns, so the French player will have to fight for his minutes with the American guard and with Kevin Pangos. Alex Abrines is still trying to regain his old shape and with many new faces the team chemistry is still not on the highest level, but as Nikola Mirotic said at the post-game interview, Barca has such a quality roster that anyone can score 20+ points on any night.
Obviously, coach Svetislav Pesic has the task to keep everyone happy and perform to their best and he is fit for this job. He has experience and he won the Euroleague already with the Blaugrana team in 2003 with a squad that, similar to this year, also had an immense level of talent and personality (Dejan Bodiroga, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Juan Carlos Navarro and others ).
Both teams still have a lot to improve, but with the return of the injured players both Barca and Efes can expect to go very far this Euroleague season.