07 October 2012
Real Madrid could not start their North American tour with a win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Pablo Laso’s team played a very tough game and were still in with a chance of winning going into the last four minutes, but a better performance around the opponent’s ring, and a great Rudy Gay (27 points), stopped them from getting a better result in a spectacular match. Rudy Fernandez and Nikola Mirotic were Madrid’s top scorers with 16 and 14 points respectively.
Right from the tip-off the game was played at a frenetic pace, something that is to be expected when you play in America where the rules encourage spectacle and where anything goes. Memphis set out to dominate the game with their big guns: Conley, Allen, Gay, Marc Gasol and Randolph. Nonetheless they were facing a team who were not afraid of a high-paced game. Laso put Carroll in his usual five to give even more speed to the attack and Madrid took the lead for the first time in the fifth minute after Carroll, Mirotic and Rudy (11 points) scored three consecutive three-pointers (14-15).
Madrid’s shooting forced the home team to call a time out. The Grizzlies started to play around the basket. Gasol and especially Gay, who had to call on all his skills, broke the Madrid defence. The difference in points scored around the basket (24-6) turned the first quarter in favour of the Grizzlies.
The home team’s shot success rate in field goals did not fall below 60%. Pondexter got his team out of any difficulties with his three pointers. With nine points from the shooting guard, the Grizzlies went eleven points up in the fifteenth minute (45-34). Madrid did not panic and started to fight back in both areas with an excellent performance from Slaughter who delighted the crowd with a spectacular block on Randolph.
Madrid’s superiority in the offensive rebound and the versatility of Mirotic, who took up shooting positions far from the ring, took Madrid to within six points of their opponents with four minutes to go before the break. If they did not reduce the gap further this was partly because of the officials’ inconsistencies in calling fouls, but that is part of North American basketball. From being almost level, they went back to the dressing room 15 points down after another Grizzlies onslaught (62-47, 24th minute).
In the third quarter Madrid improved, finding a scoring balance between their different positions. Some good minutes from Draper, Carroll and Slaughter kept them in the match after another push from the home team, once again led by Gay. The small forward was the difference between the teams in this match. His total of 22 points at the end of the third quarter once again gave his team a comfortable lead going into the final quarter (87-71, 36th minute).
When everything looked decided in the FedExForum and the Americans started to put on a show, but Real Madrid, with great concentration and aware of what they were playing for in every moment, came right back into the match. Rodríguez, Llull, Pocius, Suárez and Reyes gave their team the boost they needed. A three pointer from the Madrid point guard finished a 4-15 spell which forced the home team to call a time out and bring on their best five with four minutes left to play (91-86, 40th minute). Gay coming onto the court brought relief to the Grizzlies. The small forward scored on the next three attacks cutting off Madrid’s fight-back and guaranteeing a home win (105-93, 48th minute). The Whites will have to wait for their next match on Monday, against the Toronto Raptors, in the last game of the tour to try to get a win.