Real Madrid tightens grip on top spot after masterclass downs UNICS Kazan

MATCH REPORT. 25/01/2022. Edu Bueno. Photographer: Víctor Carretero

The Whites racked up a sixth straight EuroLeague win in the rearranged Round 19 match-up and becomes the team to have recorded the most wins in the competition (17).

Real Madrid downed UNICS Kazan in the sides’ EuroLeague Round 19 match-up, which was originally due to have been played on 6 January and was postponed following a COVID-19 outbreak in the Russian team’s ranks, to cement its grip on top spot with a 17th win and a sixth successive triumph in the competition. This victory sees Pablo Laso’s men increase the gap on second place to one win with a game in hand. The Whites recorded yet another win at the WiZink Center, where they remain unbeaten, against opponents who came into the game in fine fettle, but who they gave no chance as they produced their best in offense and defense. Tavares (14 points, 11 rebounds and a PIR of 28 in 22 minutes) was unstoppable, whilst YabuseleRudy and Llull all ended the game with a PIR of +10. This win sees Real Madrid secure its second-best start to the campaign on its own floor (11-0).

Our team had to deal with a UNICS Kazan side that showcased all of its strengths right from tip-off. The guests displayed great pace in their play, a quickness of hands in defense and accuracy in offense. The two Browns (Lorenzo and John) put the guests ahead in the early exchanges (7-12, min. 4). Madrid realised that they would have to match the Russians’ tempo and aggression and it wasn’t long before they responded with Williams-Goss (five points) and an inspired Llull (nine). The captain’s introduction changed the complexion of the opening stanza, which looked set to end all square and his trio of treys, the last of which came right on the buzzer, turned the score in the hosts’ favour at 21-14 in the 10th minute.

Madrid takes control
From that point on, Real Madrid gained control of proceedings. The team’s shackling defense, which evidenced physical prowess through the brilliant job done by Taylor on Canaan and Lorenzo Brow, reduced the Russians’ threat, with Hezonja (ten points) the only player to find any joy. Our team continued to sink points in offense, where the players constantly sought the best option and avoided rushing things. The hosts were dominating on rebounds and whilst the difference-maker in the first quarter was Llull¸ Rudy was very much the main man in the second stanza. The forward served up another masterclass on reading the game with nine points, four assists and three rebounds to pace a +9 run in this quarter to make it 47-31 following a Randolph triple.

Video.85-68: Real Madrid tightens grip on top spot after masterclass downs UNICS Kazan

The balance of the game tipped fully in Madrid’s favour in the third quarter as the hosts’ juggernaut gave the season’s surprise package no option of getting back into the contest. With not even the slightest of cracks in defense, Tavares, who was dominant in the paint, set the tempo in offense. He had already posted a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds in 22 minutes) and Yabusele was staring in the perimeter (three treys and 11 points in this period). Our team pulled 31 points ahead on 28’ at 74-43. This was another fine quarter from Laso’s men, which ended with a 27-14 run and the game looked destined for a calm conclusion.

Comprehensive win
And so it turned out. Madrid had totally nullified UNICS Kazan and the final stanza allowed Madrid to turn to the bench and introduce Alocén and Thompkins as attentions turned to the extremely tough week that lie ahead with three games in six days. Our team ended up a single point away from equalling its biggest margin of victory in this season’s EuroLeague campaign, which was the 28-point triumph over Baskonia. This round of games saw Laso move up to fourth spot and alongside Dusko Ivanovic in the standings for the coach to have overseen the highest number of EuroLeague games (324); Llull’s 320th win as he draws level with Felipe Reyes and into third place for the Madrid player with the most victories to their name.