REPORT | 20/03/2019 | PHOTOGRAPHER: Antonio VillalbaThe Whites came back from 18 points down in the second quarter, as Reyes broke the Euroleague appearances record, moving on to 342.
- Matchday 27
A win clinched with a stunning comeback, third place in the bag (already assured following Efes' loss), and a tribute to Felipe Reyes as he overtook Navarro as the Euroleague's all-team appearance record holder (342). It was a fantastic night at the WiZink Center for Real Madrid, who overcame Olimpia Milan despite the Italian side racing to an 18-point lead in the second quarter, the European champions' hunger proving too much alongside their wonderful second-half defense, restricting their opponents' to just 33 points. The Whites' interior was crucial: Tavares (9 points, 9 rebounds and a PIR of 21), Ayón (11, 10 and 18), Randolph (13) and Thompkins (9), assisted by 14 points from Llull, who becomes the Euroleague's sixth-highest all-time scorer. Win number 21 ensures that next time out, the Whites could reach second place as Fenerbahçe and CKSA are set to lock horns.
Following a tribute to Reyes to commemorate his 342 games, Real Madrid were quickly up against it. Olimpia Milan, and particularly Mike James, enjoyed a near-perfect first quarter. The American point guard netted 17 points, his team managed 33, with high percentages as the Whites just tried to remain in contention. Randolph (6) and Llull, who with 5 points moved into sixth on the historic point-scorers list, were the key offensive men for the hosts, who finished the first period 14 points down (19-33).
Madrid bite back
Faced with the visiting exhibition with Mike James, Nunnally and Nedovic scoring for fun to take their team to +18 at 22-40 in minute 12, Real Madrid refused to lie down and reacted to produce a sublime attacking display in the second quarter. They upped the intensity on the offensive rebound and improved their numbers from the three-point line. The five of Campazzo, Rudy, Taylor, Thompkins and then Reyes and, above all Ayón, fully recovered from his sprained ankle (9 points and 6 rebounds), were able to discover the form that had deserted them in the first period and Laso's men began to edge themselves back into the game to leave the scores at 50-56 at the break having netted 31 points. Despite the onslaught they'd faced, the madridistas were now just six behind.
Real Madrid resolved many of their defensive woes following the restart and the tables began to turn in the third quarter. Causeur and Taylor shackled James, Tavares dominated in the paint and the team found the balance they needed to complete the comeback with 24 minutes gone and make it 62-60 with a 12-4 early run. First Randolph, then Llull, with three consecutive triples, gave the madridistas their first lead at 73-65 following a run of 51-25 from 22-40. James again steadied his team before a Nunnally triple put them one up at the end of the quarter (74-75).
Keeping the belief
With the hardest part already complete, Real Madrid were not about to throw away all their good work. They wrested back the initiative in a final spell based on solid defense and strong play on the rebound at both ends. They restricted their opposition, who had netted 53 points in the first half, to just 33 in the second. At 86-84 with just over three minutes left and James putting the pressure on, the Whites clinched a crucial 6-0 run as Carroll and Tavares, the highest-rated madridista with 21, made it 92-84 on 38´. The team from Milan came back once more, yet again through James (he finished with 35 points), to reduce the deficit to three just 1:39 from the end (92-89). Real Madrid stood strong in this closing spell with some fine defensive efforts to ensure their opposition were unable to score and take the win. With third place now secured, second spot is in the Whites' sights as their two direct rivals go head to head in Istanbul in Friday's round of games.