07 February 2013
It was an historical match: Real Madrid had the ticket to the Copa del Rey semifinals within its reach but wasn’t able to sentence the match against Barcelona Regal in the first of two overtimes and finally lost after an intense 50 minutes of non-stop basketball. Llull, with 23 points, and Sergio Rodríguez with 18 and a 23 rating, were the top two players of a Real Madrid that has to move forward after the disappointing result and focus on the remaining undefeated in the Top 16 (7-0) in the clash next week against Anadolu Efes.
The most repeated clash in the history of the Copa del Rey kicked off with a stronger Barcelona in a highly-disputed first quarter with alternating spreads on the scoreboard during the first seven minutes. An inspired Mickael and new-addition Wallace in Pascual’s starting five gave the visitors an initial lead (4-7, min. 3) while an omnipresent Mirotic drove the Whites to eight points during a 7-1 spread (11-8, min. 5). Yet Madrid was still playing in low gear and it took its toll during the remainder of the quarter as their rival’s active defense and an offense that included the participation of all players pushed Barcelona ahead at the end of the first (18-25, min. 10).
The Whites, unable to dominate the rebounds, continued to suffer. Barcelona’s Jawai and Lorbek set up camp under Real’s hoop to give their team their biggest lead of the game (21-30, min 12.). The spread served as a wake-up call for Real, who began to play much better thanks to improved rebounding. Suárez helped to assist Slaughter on the rebounds and with his speed Sergio Rodríguez was able to give Real’s game some rhythm (four assists). Two triple-pointers and two additional baskets from Carroll and Mirotic (12 points) turned the score around with a 14-4 spread that forced Pascual to call time out (35-34, min. 15). But the Whites still had to prove themselves on defense as they struggled to close the gap, ceding easy points to their rival who with Mickael (13 points) and signs from Navarro managed to stay ahead at the half (46-49, min. 20).
Real Madrid, in spite of trailing behind during the first quarter, gave signs of being able to take off at any moment: if they pressured on defense and closed the gap they could come out ahead. A triple-pointer from Rudy put the score at 51-49 two minutes into the third quarter. But while Barcelona Regal lost a bit of focus on defense they continued to outperform: Tomic and once again Mickael pushed their team out ahead in a worrying 0-10 spread (51-59, min. 26). It was at this moment that the Whites decided to turn things around: with Slaughter forcing the offensive rebound and after a series of hard-worked offensive plays from Llull and Mirotic Real Madrid was able to balance their game again and would have started the fourth quarter ahead (60-64, min. 30) if not for missed free throws (7/15).
Ten minutes were left to decide who would be the first Copa semifinalist. The two teams lost offensive steam and started to fight for the win from the defense. Real Madrid struck first with five points from Carroll (67-66, min. 33). Barcelona’s Huertas and Tomic answered back and the last minute of the match started with the teams at an even 75-75 after two great plays by Reyes. Two three throws from Barcelona’s Croatian center were neutralized by a slam dunk from Mirotic. With 77-77 on the scoreboard and after a mistake by Tomic, Llull, who could have sentenced the match but missed the winning three-pointer, the game went to overtime (77-77, min. 40).
In overtime Real Madrid, who played without Reyes and Mirotic (personal fouls), finally overcame their bad start. When it looked like the win would go to Barcelona after a 2-8 spread in three minutes (79-85, min. 43) Real Madrid started to show their best side. The Real of the big chances. Sergio Rodríguez carried the team on his back and led the whites to 89-87 after a 10-5 spread that ended with a triple-pointer from Llull with 30 seconds on the clock. However, the dizzying back and forth during the game carried over to the overtime and after a scramble on Madrid’s side of the court Lorbek brought the game to an even 93-93 at the end of the buzzer and a second overtime.
With both teams feeling the effects of fatigue and the fouls the match continued in the same exciting dynamic. Barcelona was unable to pull ahead as Llull’s three-pointers cancelled out baskets from Tomic and Mickael. Oleson brought the score to 103-106 with one possession left for Madrid. Llull shot from the three-pointer zone but missed and the game was decided on the foul line despite the Whites’ last attempt with another incredible three-pointer that closed the gap (108-111, min. 50). Time to turn the page and focus on La Liga and the Euroleague.