The Euroleague Final Four is underway in London. Earlier, Olympiacos Kyle Hines and Pero Antic hard 13 apiece to help down Nenad Krstic, Milos Teodosic and a discombobulated CSKA Moscow team 69-52.
Afterward, Real Madrid finished a back-and-forth battle on top 74-67. Here’s how it all went down.
Barcelona’s CJ Wallace told ELA he was not 100 percent heading into tonight’s clash with Madrid due to an elbow injury, but there he was early on giving up his body. Nikola Mirotic drove to the front of the rim, but Wallace beat him to the spot dug his heels in just centimeters outside of the half-circle.
Charge: drawn. Now let’s check in on a living legend who enjoys May.
It’s Sarunas Jasikevicius’ annual reminder that he’s old but still likes Final Fours. Last season he was wearing Panathinaikos green and trying to set the record for identical pick and rolls in a quarter as he and Aleks Maric went to work and got an early lead on CSKA Moscow. This season, he had a crafty little old man drive, looking off a defender before strolling to the edge of the lane and banging home a little jumper off the glass.
I wonder where Saras will land next year. I hear CSKA could be looking for a reliable Springtime guard. Maybe they could swap 401kers, and receive Theo Papaloukas from the Russians in exchange.
A couple of seasons ago when Madrid was in this same game against Maccabi, Felipe Reyes was one of the only Madrileños who showed up to play. He’s already paid dividends in this one with a big offensive rebound (on a poorly mistimed jump, no less) which led directly to a Sergio Rodriguez triple from the corner.
Rodriguez needed to have a big game today, and he’s done that so far. That corner three was huge, but not as big as the one that gave Madrid a 35-31 lead with a minute before halftime. The Other Sergio got jealous and took it 80 feet off a steal by Reyes to avoid the contact and finish acrobatically to push that lead to six.
Serge Rod’s got seven points and six assists at the half, and nobody but nobody is disappointed with what he’s given Los Blancos today. We often talk about who Madrid’s most important player is, and again we must emphasize that this role is handed down from game to game, even quarter to quarter.
But if both Sergios play well, Real Madrid is the best team here.
At the half’s bitter end, Mirotic pulled a three from the corner. But this isn’t about the shot Madrid’s young phenom missed; this is about the elder statesman Reyes, who bodied up and grabbed his third offensive rebound in nine first half minutes, then put it back off the glass and drew the foul.
He missed the free throw, but made his point: Real Madrid won’t be pushed around inside tonight.
Halftime | Barcelona Regal 33-39 Real Madrid
Expected to miss this one with a bad foot, Nathan Jawai checked in during the third quarter and immediately traveled. Since he’s only been out one week or so, it’s hard to blame that on rust. But you do travel with your feet, so I feel OK blaming his injured foot.
Out goes Jawai. His
Willis Reed David Lee Experience has come to an end for now, and from the looks of it, the rest of the evening.
Heading into Barcelona’s fifth game against Panathinaikos, I lamented Marcelinho Huertas’ apparent loss of self-esteem and urged him to breathe freely, pass crisply and shoot with some conviction. Well if the Sergios stole the show in the second quarter for Madrid, then Huertas took note and took over in the third’s final minute and change.
First, a ballsy three put Barcelona ahead of Madrid 49-48. Next, Huertas threw up one of his patented one-footed runners to put the score at 51-48. Navarro owns that move generally, but Huertas’ version is less herky-jerky and he’s got a little more foot dragging behind him when he lets it go. Hence, it’s his own. Today, it’s working.
End of Third Quarter | Barcelona Regal 51 – Real Madrid 48
Huertas wanted to put an even firmer stamp on that one-footer apparently, so after dancing around an Erazem Lorbek screen Huertas nailed a deep three off one shoe for his 13th, 14th and 15th points. The runner pushed Barcelona’s lead to 54-48.
Joe Ingles airballed a three earlier. Not this time: Joe Ingles wets one from the left wing. We haven’t seen Ingles as the ball handler in the pick and roll as often today as we have n the past. All things considered, Madrid’s doing good work keeping Barcelona’s guards from getting to valuable real estate. The Catalunyans are simply hitting tough shots and being patient.
Barcelona has slowed down Madrid’s fast break, so Rodriguez decided to manufacture one all by his lonesome. Rip and run all the way to the cup and we’re tied at 63 with over four minutes left. Felipe Reyes knocks down a pair of free throws to get Madrid back in the lead.
Who’s going to jump on that seesaw next?
After the scoreless Jaycee Carroll tipped in a miss for his first bucket (strangely, it was Carroll’s sixth rebound), I thought it’d be him. But for the moment, it’s Reyes that wants a ride.
After Rodriguez went for the jugular with a three, Reyes grabbed the offensive board and wound up putting the ball back in the rim. More than pushing Madrid’s lead to 69-63, the rebound pushed Reyes past Mirsad Turkcan on the Euroleague’s all-time rebounding list. Hell of a way to do it, but he won’t be celebrating tonight if Los Blancos don’t ensure a spot in Sunday’s finals.
If Madrid makes it there, he’ll have been as big a reason as any.
There are 24.3 seconds left and Barcelona’s season is evaporating. Real Madrid splits a pair of free throws and Barcelona rebounds, down 70-65. Gotta push it. They do. Turnover. Rodriguez clutches it, puts it on the floor and gets fouled by Navarro. He makes them both.
Full Time | Barcelona Regal 67 – 74 Real Madrid
After a one-sided blasting in the first game, it was refreshing to see competitive basketball being played in London. One team would score and next thing you know, the other team would score, too. Imagine that. Coaches adjusted, players reacted and some big names stepped up with big games.
It just so happens that more of those names were written on the backs of Madrid jerseys, and Barcelona’s biggest star never strung together those few minutes of signature brilliance that we’ve come to expect from him on the big stage.
Rodriguez couldn’t have been any more efficient, handing out nine assists in just 22 minutes and scoring 12 of his own. Best of all, he didn’t turn it over once and his only questionable jumpers were a product of rhythm and circumstance, just as they should be.
But my hardware has to go to Felipe Reyes, who scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and snagged four offensive boards (of five total). His ability to keep possessions alive and take advantage of Nate Jawai’s absence inside was paramount to Madrid’s success. This Barcelona team is rarely surpassed in toughness, but Reyes and Marcus Slaughter—whose defense on Ante Tomic in the second half helped erase his impact in the second half—were the toughest guys out there tonight.
Mirotic had a rough outing and looked younger than usual today, going 1-of-8 for six points and three rebounds. Barcelona’s defense is tough to crack, but Mirotic found crevices and had scoring opportunities that he usually converts, but couldn’t. He needs to drink a protein shake, watch Felipe Reyes’ game film and come back ready for mismatches come Sunday (unless Kyle Hines is on him which, as we know, takes a mismatch and flips it on its head).
Rudy Fernandez was quiet for Madrid, too, scoring just eight on 3-of-10 rom the field.
Pablo Laso’s two All-Euroleaguers performed like that and he still beat the team with the best record in Europe. Must be nice.
Xavi Pascual’s two All-Euroleaguers did only marginally better: Juan Carlos Navarro had nine on 3-of-9 and missed a couple of big shots late in the game that could’ve cut Madrid’s lead. Tomic actually played exceptionally well in the first half, only to be Marcus Slaughtered in the second half and disappear offensively. He still finished with the game’s best line of 18 points and 12 rebounds, but his timing could have been better.
Now we wait for Madrid’s clash with Olympiacos on Sunday.
These things we know: we will see more running and more scoring than we did in today’s games. We’ll see if Spanoulis can knock down his threes, and if Kostas Papanikolaou can author another perfect night (he didn’t miss a shot in last year’s Final Four). We’ll see if Rodriguez can keep playing the best point guard of his career and if Mirotic and Fernandez can hop out of their respective ruts to join the fun. We won’t see Milos Teodosic. We will see Kyle Hines.
And hopefully, if this Mother’s Day is anything like the last, we’ll see a frantic struggle between deserving contenders end with the whole arena watching and waiting as the final shot makes its way toward the rim.
Will Olympiacos win its second title in as many years, or will Real Madrid win their first crown since 1995? As long as the final looks nothing at all like today’s Olympiacos-CSKA Moscow game, either result will do.
Go on to the next page to read how Kyle Hines demolished Nenad Krstic and CSKA Moscow.