The biggest surprise of Thursday night came in Group C where Krka Novo Mesto, the qualifier from Slovenia, shocked Real Madrid and its 3,000 fans with an 87-93 upset that won't be forgotten soon in the Spanish capital. A star was born in Madrid on Thursday. He goes by the name of Jaka Lakovic. The 23-year-old point guard from Novo Mesto lit up the floor for 38 points and controlled the game on his team's offensive end. The young Lakovic's leadership, a solid inside game and a complete lack of nerves led Novo Mesto to perhaps the biggest victory in its history. As such, Novo Mesto improved to 1-1 in Group C, just a single shot from an undefeated record after having qualified for the Euroleague in late September. Madrid, whose record is now 1-1, was led by Raúl López wtih 22 points and Dusan Vukcevic with 20.
With Lakovic and his young teammates taking the shots without thinking twice, plus a hard-working inside game, Krka Novo Mesto earned the rare privilege of winning in its first visit to the home of Real Madrid. The host team's lack of consistency was worrying to the fans. Coming off a Spanish League home loss to Tau Cerámica, Sergio Scariolo designed a starting five which resembled the one of last season, with only Dragan Tarlac present among the offseason acquisitions. It didn't matter because Real Madrid fell again with no excuses. With Tarlac defending the best center of the Slovenian, Mate Skelin, and with effective penetrations by Raúl López, Madrid played its role quite convincingly and with some easy lay ups took a 15-7 lead. Nevertheless, the first rotations on the Novo Mesto bench forged the first lead for Krka after an 0-6 run for a 20-22 edge. That's when Real Madrid started showing signs of being anything but concentrated. Right after taking the lead, Krka extended its run by another 7 points, 0-13 in all, to push ahead 20-29.
Real turned to its reserve players and some good shooting by Dusan Vukcevic plus better defense gave the crowd a little hope. Still, none of it was enough to stop Krka from leading through the half and staging another blitz in the third quarter, sparked by a third three-pointer by Lakovic. With that shot, Lakovic was already up to 20 points. He then assisted Samo Grum on another bomb and added two more free throws to put an 18-point lead on the scoreboard, 35-53, after 24 minutes.
After anguish took over the Madrid players, Vukcevic led his new teammates on an 11-0 run which put Real back into the game, 46-53. The game even got tighter when the deficit decreased to three points only, 54-57, but it was like a dream. Two offensive charges and an unsportsmanlike foul were used by Novo Mesto to put things back into their place. This was the final stroke that ended Madrid's chances. The soundtrack played the complaints of the Madrid crowd and the foreground showed only resignation on the faces of home team.
Thursday, October 18, 2001