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Madrid clinches the Undécima thanks to a magical basket from Llull

MATCH REPORT. 21/05/2023. Edu Bueno (Kaunas). Photographer: Víctor Carretero

Our side beat Olympiacos in an epic encounter in Kaunas, won by the captain with three seconds to go, becoming Euroleague champions.

Real Madrid celebrated success in Kaunas and further enhanced its legend by becoming European champion for the eleventh time in the club's history, the third time in eight years (2015, 2018 and 2023). They overcame Olympiacos, just as they did in 1995 in Zaragoza and 2015 in Madrid, in a memorable final that saw them once again pull off another feat and surpass themselves. They came back from 12 points down before halftime in a Zalgirio Arena, with thousands of Greek fans against them, and did it again later, at seven behind in the 35th minute, true to their DNA, and managed to turn around a very difficult game in the best possible way, with a historic basket from Llull with 3.1 seconds to go, leading us to the title and bringing a heroic season to a close. Sergio Rodríguez was magnificent, with 8 of his 15 points in the last 5 minutes (he also had 9 assists for 23 PIR), and of course, MVP of the Final Four, Tavares, with another double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds).

The biggest challenge was yet to come. Not only would they have to take on a team like Olympiacos, but also a Zalgirio Arena that seemed like the Piraeus with thousands of fans that filled its stands. But Madrid, stuck to their own game. Had already shown the way in Belgrade, they would do it again on the big day. The final match, which started with a five-minute delay due to a problem with the scoreboard, opened with both teams feeling each other out. With 9-9 on the scoreboard, Olympiacos took the initiative thanks to their success with three-pointers. Just like in the semifinals, Madrid won the game in rebounding and totally sealed the zone, but the Greek team was particularly successful from three-point range with its 5/8 scored in the opening quarter. Between Canaan, Vezenkov and Papanikolaou, they recorded 24 points for their team, who took a 12-point lead at the 9' mark (24-12).

Big reaction from Madrid
Madrid held their concentration in a hostile atmosphere. But unity, more than ever, is strength. Tavares had keep the team close to the Greek side with 5 points and 5 rebounds. Chus Mateo rotated, bringing out the old guard. And they wouldn't let him down. With Sergio Rodriguez in charge (5 points and 6 assists) our team improved in offense and began to cause damage from the outside with six three-pointers in the second quarter. Causeur, Musa, Rudy and, most of all, Hezonja, who finished the first half with 12 points, hit a 19-5 run in five minutes to put us ahead 29-31 (min. 14), and reached 33-16 in the 18th minute, taking our lead to a maximum (40-45, min. 28). If not for Mckissic (10 points), we would have been ahead at halftime (45-45).

Video.78-79: Madrid clinches the Undécima thanks to a magical basket from Llull

After the break, the tension rose considerably and this resulted in a less effective 10 minutes in attack. Both sides were rash, but Olympiacos capitalised a little better on Madrid's mistakes to build an 18-14 run in the third quarter and enter the final quarter with the score firmly in their favour (63-59) after Rudy's last-second three-pointer bounced off the rim.

The misfortune of that attack, which could have brought the Whites within a point, turned into a 7-plus for the Greeks in the 32nd minute. But whoever thought Madrid were going to give up was mistaken, as quitting is certainly not in the club's DNA. The side hadn't made it this far with all their toil for nothing. Even with a number of very incomprehensible refereeing decisions in the last two minutes, they were not going to be pushed out of the game. Madrid reacted like champions in the face of adversity. Causeur stepped up and his two three-pointers ensured that Olympiacos could not widen the gap. With five minutes to go, the madridistas were then pegged back (74-67) after a triple from Vezenkov.

The EuroLeague of the veterans
But Sergio Rodríguez was determined that this was his Final Four. With eight points practically in succession he put our team up 78-77 with 45 seconds to play. In the next play, the team produced some great defence and recovered the ball. Captain Sergio Llull called for the ball. It had to be his. He played it and with an incredible shot, which seemed to graze graze the roof of the pavilion to overcome Fall's huge arms, he scored the winning basket to secure La Undécima, with 3.1 seconds left and silenced the Zalgirio Arena (78-79, min. 40). Real Madrid have now won the most EuroLeagues in the last eight years. This season, the Whites have already added two titles to the Endesa Super Cup.  The club also leaves Kaunas as junior European champions, and we also leave Kaunas as European junior champions.