11 January 2013
A superhuman effort, an intense fight and in the end the Palacio remains undefeated and the Whites have now boast a 3-3 record. Real Madrid took down Plaza’s Zalgiris; it was difficult, but they pulled it off. In a game where the defense on both sides eventually brought down the scoring, El Chaco saved the day. His three-pointer, with three seconds left on the clock, brought the score to 75-74, securing the Whites a 3-0 run in the Top 16. As usual, Rudy, Mirotic and Llull were magnificent.
Plaza had already cautioned that “Real Madrid can overwhelm you in seconds, but if we’re at 100% we have a chance”. The Lithuanian squad took the coach’s words to heart; Plaza had come to shine at his former court. And he couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. Zalgiris wanted to attack Madrid with its own weapon, a devilish pace. Definitely the right move: with a three-pointer from Popovic, one of Plaza’s more destabilizing players, and a solid performance by Foote, things started to look dark for the local team who, despite Rudy’s omnipresence on the court, weren’t able to shake up the Lithuanians, very aggressive in defense and with efficient offense. After feeling the other team out and seeing what Plaza had in mind Real Madrid began to feel at home and closed the gap in the score. Slaughter and Reyes helped to get things going. A solid defense from the Whites, more fierce than at the start of the match, and a constant fight despite being 10 below on the scoreboard (9-19) let the squad gain some ground, closing the gap to just two points. At the end of the quarter and after a triple-pointer from Lafayette at the buzzer the game stood at 18-23.
Pocius, missing from the last few games, wanted to prove himself against his former team. The first six points from the Whites came from the Lithuanian player, whose plantar fasciitis showed no signs of appearance. Laso’s team gained an advantage with a quick Rodríguez, but one defensive player who certainly deserves recognition is Marcus Slaughter, a veritable wall in front of Zalgiris. With just 5:23 to the half the Whites got ahead on the scoreboard for the first time in the match (29-28). The tug of war continued. An intense and quick back-and-forth; neither team gave ground. El Chacho, who continues to be in top form, spurred on his team mates, trying as much as possible to unblock his team, the scoreboard fluctuating all the while. Mirotic took on an offensive role in the last minutes of the half and together with Rudy and Pocius was one of the best players of the night. The power forward from Montenegro racked up Real Madrid’s last eight points, putting the score at 40-40. Maximum equality.
In the third quarter Marko Popovic continue to do damage to the Whites. A lot of damage. Real Madrid failed to score in the first three minutes; Popovic scored five. Mirotic came alive again to address the problem. Powerful in both offense and defense, the Montenegrin player was the highlight of the team and with four minutes to go in the quarter had racked up 17 points. Carlos Suarez also shined during the last minutes of play. The defense on both sides blocked their rival’s counterattacks and scores were low for both teams at the end of the quarter (54-52), who had only managed a 14-12 over the 10 minutes.
With nothing decided, with physical wear and tear that didn’t seem to take a toll judging by the defensive intensity that was being spent, the match continued with the blocking of the rival’s counterattacks. The fight to score was life-or-death under both baskets and the equality between the two squads was terrible news in the Palacio. Once again Sergio Llull, addicted to coming alive at crucial moments, saved the day. Five points in a row from the player from Menorca put the biggest gap in the score yet (67-63). Lafayette wanted to counter the White’s jump in points and did: the last minutes of the game were intense. After the celebration in the Palacio, the fans cheering their team’s every move, came the bad news, and an unsportsmanlike clash with Rudy Fernandez brought the score to a draw, giving the possession to Zalgiris , who had clearly proved that they had come to win. An error by Kaukenas turned things around and Madrid got possession with 41 seconds on the clock. After a failed shot by the Whites Plaza’s team got control of the ball again and inched ahead on the scoreboard (72-74). The tension was palatable. El Chacho received a pass from Rudy and scored a three-pointer from the corner, bringing the score to 75-74. But three seconds, three eternal seconds, were left, but things didn’t turn out in the Lithuanian’s favor. With the buzzer Laso’s team picked up an important victory that gives them a 3-3 record in the Top 16.