31 August 2012
It is time to leave behind the prologue of the summer and to get on with the real action and see how things feel. The Real Madrid basketball team of Rudy, Llull, Reyes and Rodríguez, and of newcomers Draper and Slaughter played their first game of the pre-season against Cibona Zagreb. The match left a clear outline of the direction the team want to go in. That is to put on a show and to win at the same time. They overwhelmed the Croats and did so without much effort, but whilst making it clear that they have not lost their identity from one year to the next and that great things remain in Real Madrid’s DNA. Speed, some interesting link up play, such as the connection between Chacho and Slaughter, and a team that does not drop the pace. In the end an overwhelming 95-68 on the scoreboard in favour of the Whites’ first game of this pre-season.
It was piece of action and Laso wanted to break the ice with a five that was worthy of official competition. Llull, Rudy, Suárez, Mirotic and debutant Slaughter started the game. Although Laso made use of the test bed that these games are and used the first ten minutes to rotate through all of the players at his disposal except for Mirza Begic, who was suffering from a sprained ankle. The coach was able to take note of how they his players were looking.
A spectacular Mirotic, who scored nine points, and Rudy’s six (two triples) began open up an advantage. Madrid had a maximum 13 point lead higher during this quarter. However, for Laso there were still some things that he had to put into practice. In the 6th minute he wanted to see how the team worked with Draper and Chacho on court and the answer left nobody in doubt. Likewise the connection between Rodriguez and Slaughter, who scored from an alley oop that lifted the crowd. At the end of the quarter the scoreboard read 26-19 after Carter, the best player for his team and Real Madrid’s tormenter scored 11 points, which included nine from 3-pointers, for Cibona.
In the second quarter Laso’s players, maintained the points difference but it was not that comfortable. They had less success going forward and were losing balls. That, plus Thomas’ good play contributed towards an increasingly tighter scoreline. Again, Mirotic came to the rescue for his team. And the newcomers, Draper and Slaughter, who provided intensive defence during the period, succeeded in once again making the gap comfortable and not allowing the Croatians to get within 10 points. At the end of the period the score was up to 51-37. The main difference was Mirotic, who finished as the top scorer for his team with 18 points and an efficiency of 24. The Spanish-Montenegrin put in an almost perfect performance up until half time.
The dynamics of the game did not change after the visit to the changing rooms. Mirotic was the most complete player, the stand out player and he played his best for his team. In fact during these opening minutes of the second half he made the best play of the game: a spectacular penetration that ended in a no less incredible left-handed dunk. Cibona woke up thanks to Kus and Kovacevic but the best of Laso’s players’ best set plays and shooting success from free throws meant that the team were 11 up with ten minutes of the match remaining.
In the latest period, the Zagreb side downed arms and gave up. The White hurricane, still led by a Mirotic who had a fine day out kept putting on a show in the arena at Villanueva de Algaidas. The opener went as expected. Mirotic stood out and the other good news was undoubtedly Willy Hernangómez, playing his first team debut managed to score in the first quarter and added six points throughout the game to the delight of Laso.