Real Madrid slipped to defeat in Belgrade but come away with their heads held high. The defenses came out on top in the rescheduled Round 20 contest on a night that saw our team keep on fighting. Indeed, the Whites came close to forcing overtime in the final play, but Llull’s three-pointer didn’t find the net. The captain was the leading light for our team after posting 20 points and five treys, along with the double-double from Tavares (11 points and rebounds apiece). Pablo Laso’s men continue to seek qualification for the EuroLeague playoffs with seven rounds remaining.
There was an electric atmosphere inside the Nikolic Hall for the visit of Real Madrid, who arrived in town without Alocén, Causeur, Taylor and Deck. As expected, Crvena zvezda came out full of energy and tried to run at all times as they forced our players into fouls and racked up 10 points from the personal foul line. However, Laso’s lot hit back with the same level of aggression and were well organised in defense and performing well on offensive rebounds. Yabusele (5 points and 4 rebounds) and Tavares (5 and 2) were pacing the team in attack as the madridistas moved the ball around well, but lacked accuracy on three-pointers in a very even first stanza (16-15, min.10).
Hosts take lead into interval
For much of the second quarter, there was little change to the script, with the two teams focusing heavily on their defensive efforts. Madrid were being held back by their low scoring percentages from the outside. The Whites posted three treys, one from Thompkins and another from Llull, in the second 10 minutes, but Poirier was the player to counter the Serbs’ surge. With the score at 24-26 on 16’, our team fell away after several turnovers that Crvena zvezda made the most of through Wolters and Davidovac to tear up an 11-2 run that brought the first half to a close with the scores at 35-28.
Video.65-62: Defeat to Crvena zvezda after very even finish
The best aspect of Madrid’s game continued to its defense, as has been the case for much of the season. However, at the same time, the team was lacking consistency in offense. Several good pieces of offensive play were enough to haul the guests back within striking distance, but there was also either rushed play or a triple from the opposition to prevent Madrid from levelling terms. This was the case up until the 24th minute, when the hosts were eight points ahead (42-34). However, at this point, Laso’s men stepped things up in offense and stood firm defensively. Hanga, Abalde and Tavares led a 0-8 run to finally make it all square at 42-42 on 30’ in a third quarter that the madridistas won 14-8.
Madrid had chance to force overtime
The game headed into the final quarter with everything to play for. There was parity and intensity as the teams exchanged baskets and the Nikolic Hall put the pressure on. Kalinic and Wolters put their team back in front as the game headed into the last four minutes with the score at 57-50. It was now or never for Real Madrid, who responded with real character. The Whites showed great determination on three-pointers and kept trying their luck. Llull and Abalde dragged Madrid back to within a point to make it 57-56 with just over two minutes remaining. However, our team failed to post points in the following attacks and Crvena zvezda did just that through Davidovac, who edged the Serbs closer to victory with 1:15 left (63-56). Madrid looked to stage a last-gasp comeback and very nearly did so. Two Llull treys made it 63-62 with 15 seconds to play. The hosts netted two free throws in the next play to make it 65-52. Llull then took on the responsibility and missed the triple to force overtime in the final play of the night as the referees failed to award a foul for possible contact on our captain. In 48 hours’ time, we face AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milano in another key game in the quest to make the playoffs (8:45pm CET).