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Madrid open the Euroleague double-header with a win

MATCH REPORT. 01/02/2023. Edu Bueno. Photographer: Pedro Castillo

Chus Mateo's boys remain joint top of the table after beating Panathinaikos at the WiZink Center.

Real Madrid got February and their Euroleague double-header underway with a fifteenth win in the competition to remain at the summit on the same number of victories as Olympiacos. Our team defeated Panathinaikos at the WiZink Center with another impressive all-round display. Just like on Sunday in Manresa, a sublime first half (48-30) set the game firmly in their favour, while they were solid after the break as the visitors looked to come back into it. Yabusele (16 points, 7 rebounds and 21 PIR), Musa (12 & 16) and Hezonja (14 & 12), were the standout performers for the team, who showed their defensive dominance once again.
In the build-up, Chus Mateo called on his team to show concentration from the off and the players heeded their coach's warning with a superb opening spell, finding a perfect balance between offense and defense (23-9, min.8). They imposed themselves on the game early on with a physical starting five, shackling the Euroleague's top scorer Bacon, and controlling the rebound through the Tavares-Yabusele duo. The Frenchman was unplayable near the hoop in the early minutes (8 points & 3 rebounds) as our team punished the Greeks on the counter. Musa was another leading light in offense in what was a dominant first quarter (26-14).
Flawless Madrid display
Poirier's absence meant Tavares had to be everywhere at once at the back, and his omnipresence made life incredibly difficult for the team from Athens. Without him and Papagiannis on court, the Greeks improved on the offensive rebound and the triple, allowing them to hang in the game (33-25, min.14). But Tavares' return brought Panathinaikos crashing back down to Earth. Madrid continued to show incredible focus, making few mistakes (just three turnovers in the first half) and began to link up beautifully in offense with Rudy and Deck setting the pace as they regained control of the rebound under their basket. This meant a 15-2 run to put the score at 48-27 just a minute before the break.

Video.83-68: Madrid open the Euroleague double-header with a win

Panathinaikos came out for the second half with renewed energy, as Lee, Grigonis and Gudaitis looked to pull their team back into the game. Madrid responded by calling on the depth of their squad. Williams-Goss and Causeur were charged with maintaining the comfortable lead, which remained at 21 points with 26 on the clock (60-39). That's when the visitors stepped it up a notch and began to believe again as the score shifted to 68-57 at the end of quarter three. 

The defense reacts
Madrid were no longer scoring with such ease now, and as they struggled to put the game to bed, they turned to defense in the final period. They showed why they are the Euroleague's best back-line and cut-off the Panathinaikos point-scoring, which now relied solely on Lee. Yabusele took charge of the paint as his teammates contributed with important baskets. Musa, Llull, Hezonja and Cornelie, the latter with a three-pointer, put our team at +15 to repel any danger of a Greek fightback (83-68, min.40). Next up, a tough trip to Monaco in less than 48 hours' time (Friday, 7:00pm CET).