Real Madrid produced a statement of intent in the league final after downing Barça in Game 1 at the Palau Blaugrana to claim home-court advantage in this best-of-five series. Our boys were by far the better team in the opening three quarters, in which they racked up a 23-point lead and completely nullified Barça, before displaying impressive mental strength in the final stanza to counter the Azulgranas’ bid to get back into the contest. This was another stellar team performance, with seven players posting double-figure PIRs, led by Deck (18 points and a PIR of 20), Hanga (16 points) and Causeur (15). Meanwhile, Abalde returned to the fray, whilst Randolph picked up an injury.
Real Madrid came racing out of the blocks in the showpiece. After conceding a 5-0 run in the opening minute, the Whites took control of proceedings in one of the team’s best quarters of the season. The guests netted 30 points with some extremely high-tempo basketball in offense and some impressive shooting percentages (7/12 T2, 4/5 T3 and 4/4 TL), paced by Hanga (9 points) and Causeur (8 and no misses), but no fewer than seven players contributed in the attacking stakes. Barça had no answer to the madridistas’ surge and a changed defense saw them commit more turnovers than usual, whilst Mirotic and Higgins kept their team’s hopes alive (17-30, min 10).
Video.75-88: Real Madrid dazzle at El Palau to take lead in final series
Our team displayed a commendable attitude as the players gave their all in every play. The guests’ scoring rate levelled off a little in the second stanza, but Hanga remained unstoppable (16 points at the break) and he was supported by Poirier and his dominance on offensive rebounds. The Whites upped their game even more in defense and claimed the second quarter following a 14-19 run to secure a 20-point lead at 29-49 in the 19th minute. Madrid was in complete control and only allowed Kuric and Laprovittola to put in fleeting appearance. The only downside to our team’s excellent first half was the injury to Randolph, who was forced off after twisting his knee (31-49, min.20).
Test of mental strength
Barça injected a bout of extra aggression in its game and tried to slow the pace of the contest in the third quarter, but this did little to help their cause. Madrid was ready for the battle, with all of the troops fully focused. Deck countered the hosts’ first surge and Taylor netted five straight points to nullify the Azulgranas’ second attempt to haul themselves into the match. The performance of Juan Núñez is worth of special mention as the youth-team graduate not only took over from Hanga on the organisational side of things, he also produced a sublime third quarter in which he contributed in all areas: points, rebounds, assists and, above all, displaying great maturity at the tender age of 18 in a setting like El Palau.
Madrid headed into the final quarter with a 23-point buffer (51-74). However, the visitors would still have to dig deep. The hosts went all out and hauled themselves back to within 10 points, but were up against opponents who were uncompromising and hit back time and time again, paced by the tireless Deck. Yabusele played a key role in the dying embers with some fine work on offensive rebounds. An impossible 2+1 from the Argentine and a Causeur trey put the game firmly beyond Barcelona’s reach and rounded off a 13-point win. Madrid will have the chance to secure the crown at the WiZink Center, but before then the immediate focus is on securing a second win at El Palau on Wednesday (9pm CET).
BARÇA v REAL MADRID STATISTICS