Two forwards filling up the stat sheets this season square off at Palau Blaugrana on Friday when Nikola Mirotic and FC Barcelona hosts Achille Polonara and TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
With first-place Barcelona gunning to get home-court playoff advantage and Baskonia on a five-game winning streak and making its own playoff push, this game has plenty of intrigue.
And then there is the matchup between Mirotic and Polonara, versatile veteran forwards, each in his own right, who both figure among the most productive players on EuroLeague floors this season.
As a matter of fact, Mirotic enters Round 28 as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague leader in average PIR with 21.0 per game One of competition’s premier stars, Mirotic ranks fifth in scoring (16.6 ppg.) and fifth in rebounding (6.0 rpg.).
By comparison, Polonara’s average PIR of 15.3 is 15th-best in the league. He ranks third with 6.3 rebounds and sixth with 1.1 blocks per game. Polonara also averages 11.3 points. Both players make 1.1 steals per contest.
Even though Mirotic is considered one of EuroLeague’s most dangerous scorers, it is Polonara who has attempted more field goals this season, helped by a fact that the Baskonia forward has six more appearances than his Barcelona counterpart.
Both players have knocked down shots with impressive consistency despite a high volume this season. Only two of the 18 plays who have made 85 or more two-pointers this season have an accuracy rate higher than Mirotic’s 66.9%. Polonara, on the other hand, has knocked down 38 triples, 10 more than Mirotic, on 44.7% accuracy.
This will be the third time these two players meet head-to-head in EuroLeague action. The first time came in Round 17 last season, when Baskonia edged Barcelona 76-74 at home. A EuroLeague rookie last season, Polonara had a limited role in a victory, playing just 10 minutes with 3 points and 2 rebounds. Mirotic paced Barcelona in defeat with 17 points, 5 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.
This season, Polonara’s role on Baskonia changed dramatically. After averaging 12:31 minutes last season, Polonara has totaled the fourth most minutes in the entire EuroLeague this season, averaging 28:44 per game. He spent almost 34 minutes on the floor in Round 6 against Barcelona, collecting 14 points on 4-for-5 two-point shooting and 2-for-5 accuracy from three-point territory. He also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. But Barcelona scored the final 11 points in that game to pull out 71-72 win.
Mirotic was once again Barcelona top scorer in that game, with 18 points on 7-for-10 two-pointers and 1-for-2 threes. He also had 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Mirotic is coming into this game off a season-high 25-point performance on Tuesday in Athens against Panathinaikos, and as much as Polonara is an instrumental part of Baskonia offense, one of his tasks will be to harass Mirotic all over the floor defensively.
All things point to a must-see matchup in a final game of a busy EuroLeague week.