A player who knew more than a little about where he was playing helped Real Madrid take hold of third place in Group C with a big 64-76 road win at Adecco Asvel on Thursday. Everything began with emotion when Alain Digbeu was called in the middle of the court where he learned to play and received a symbolic jersey from his spiritual grandfather, Asvel's 77-year-old equipment manager, Jacques Laurut. The fans, of course, stood to applaud. Later they could only accept it as Digbeu led Madrid on both ends, finishing the game with 15 points to top all scorers. The guests played a great second quarter to hold a 13-point lead at the break, but Asvel came back with a 7-0 run after halftime that gave life back to the game. But the French team didn't know how to seal the reaction and Real jumped back to double-digit leads the rest of the way. In his debut with Madrid, Damir Mulaomerovic added 13 points for the winners. Robert Gulyas led Asvel with 11 points and Sacha Giffa bagged 10. One of the top three-point shooting teams all season, Asvel suffered from behind the arc Thursday with just 13% accuracy.The win leaves Madrid with a 4-3 record in the group alone at third place, while Asvel drops to 3-4, tied with Olympiacos and Virtus.
As expected, there was some tension on court as third place inthe group was being played for. The score was tied four times in the first quarter. Mulaomerovic was showing everyone he was back in action, scoring 4 points and giving 3 assists. On the other side, Stevin Smith started the game on the bench and entered the court with 3:46 to go in the period. At 16-16, Asvel coach Philippe Herve called for a timeout and when the teams got back on court, Derrick Alston scored 6 points in a row to give him 10 total without a miss at the end of the first. Asvel answered with a 6-0 run, too, in 45 seconds, and Andre Owens scored his 4 points in the last 1:13. With 2 free throws by Alex Mumbru, Real reached the end of the quarter with just a two-point lead, 22-24.
Asvel scored only one three-pointer through Giffa in the first quarter and Madrid didn't even shoot one, but that was no surprise as Madrid has the worst three-pointers accuracy in the league. But in the second quarter, Asvel couldn't stop the shooters from long distance as Mulaomerovic, Digbeu, Mumbru and Alberto Herreros hit one each, and Madrid reached halftime having hit 4-for-8 from beyond the three-point line. At the same time, Asvel was unable to score a single basket for about 3 minutes and Real Madrid made its break with a 17-2 run over 4:30, from 33-33 to 35-50 with 1:17 remaining on the clock. Vasco Evtimov scored 2 of his 7 points at the end of the quarter as Asvel lost the quarter 15-26 and was behind by 13 at halftime 37-50.
After intermission, Asvel came back with some defensive inventions and began the quarter with a 7-0 run, forcing Imbroda to call an early timeout. Madrid stayed scoreless for the first 4:40 of the quarter, but still led 44-50. Then the guests turned the tables, scoring three baskets in a row while not allowing Asvel a single one over 5 minutes. The hosts only offense was 4 free throws until Owens hit a three-point play with 15 seconds to go. But Dragan Tarlac had a tip-in at the buzzer for Madrid to end a defensive 10 minutes. Although Asvel won the third quarter 16-12, Madrid still held a sizeable lead at 53-62.
The fourth quarter began with Mulaomerovic on the bench for the first time during the game, but Digbeu and Herreros were still on court. Herve made a lot of changes to give rhythm to his team, but Digbeu continued his show with 2 threes to give his team a 13-point lead with 5 minutes to play. Herve called for a timeout with 4:11 on the clock and tried a zone defense. Madrid was unable to score on it but in the meantime, Asvel only made 4 free throws in 3 minutes. Digbeu went to the charity line and added 2 points himselv, then Mulaomerovic did the same. Asvel kept trying from long distance, but with terrible percentages, finishing 2-for-15 on the night, a long way from its 43.9% accuracy behind the arc in the previous six games. Madrid had taken care of business and was holding third place in Group C as its prize.
Thursday, December 05, 2002