Real Madrid edges Zalgiris on Rodriguez’s late triple
Sergio Rodriguez hit a game-winning three-pointer with 3.5 seconds to go as Real Madrid survived a thriller to edge Zalgiris Kaunas 75-74 in Palacio de Deportes in Spain’s capital on Friday night. The win improves Madrid to 3-0 and a share of Group E lead with CSKA Moscow, while Zalgiris drops to 1-2, and into a fifth-place tie. The game itself was a close as it gets, and a triple from Rodriguez was a climax to an excellent encounter. After Zalgiris built an early 10-point lead, the hosts quickly caught up and teams kept exchanging leads throughout the final three quarters and until the final buzzer. The last two minutes alone featured four lead changes and two ties. Oliver Lafayette gave the visitors 72-74 edge from the line with 8.7 seconds to go, but Rodriguez answered with what turned out to be a game-winning shot. Marko Popovic had a chance to become Zalgiris’s hero, but his last-second triple was no good. Nikola Mirotic finished with 17 points for Madrid, while Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull each scored 10. Popovic had a game-high 21 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting for Zalgiris, while Lafayette had 13 points and Rimantas Kaukenas scored 11 in defeat.
First quarter: Zalgiris jumps in front early
Popovic nailed a three-pointer on the opening possession of the game, and after Jeff Foote free throws, Popovic’s steal led to an easy layup for Tremmell Daden and quick 0-7 lead. After Madrid answered with a jumper and basket-plus-foul from Rudy Fernandez, Zalgiris scored 6 more unanswered points – Foote’s dunk in the lane, Popovic’s layup and Darden’s turnaround jumper made it 5-13. Mirotic snapped the run with a put-back, but a layup-plus-foul by Rimantas Kaukenas and a triple from Ksistof Lavrinovic extended the margin to 9-19. The hosts grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, and had 4 steals in the early going, but failed to convert on those. However, Madrid cut into the lead with more aggressive defense that kept Zalgiris without a field goal for almost four minutes. Meanwhile, Llull made a floater, and threw an alley-oop pass for a reverse dunk by Fernandez to ignite the crowd. A put-back from Felipe Reyes in the final seconds of the quarter got Madrid within 2, but the remaining 5 seconds of the quarter were enough time for Oliver Lafayette to go the length of the court and nail a triple to make it 18-23 after 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Madrid hangs in
Martynas Pocius and Kaukenas traded baskets to start the second quarter before Pocius hit a triple-plus-foul to bring Real Madrid to 24-25. Ibby Jaaber answered with a triple of his own, but the hosts went on a run, starting with Marcus Slaughter making a basket inside. Slaughter, then blocked a layup attempt from Adas Juskevicius, before Rodriguez gave the hosts their first advantage, 29-28. The teams continued to exchange leads as Popovic and Rodriguez traded triples. Popovic then nailed his third shot from downtown, but Real Madrid got back in front 36-34 with a layup by Mirotic. Zalgiris quickly regained a slim lead with a jumper from Mario Delas and a fastbreak dunk from Darden, before in the final 10 seconds Foote scored from close range, while Mirotic’s acrobatic layup seconds before the buzzer made it 40-40 at halftime.
Third quarter: Popovic hits triples, but Mirotic helps Madrid take the lead
Popovic opened the second half the same way he did the first, with a triple, before Mirotic and Carlos Suarez got Madrid going from close range. Foote used an assist from Popovic assist for an easy dunk, and after Mirotic answered with a driving layup, Popovic hit his fifth shot from long range for 46-50. However, Mirotic and Suarez replied with back-to-back triples before Rafael Hettsheimeir hit a jumper for 54-52. Neither team managed to score in the last three minutes of the quarter and Madrid kept a 2-point lead going into the final 10 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Rodriguez triple decides thriller
Delas hit an open jumper to tie the game at the start of the fourth quarter, but Dontaye Draper answered with an off-the-dribble three-pointer for Madrid’s biggest lead to that point, 57-54. A triple by Kaukenas tied the game, once again, and score was tied at 62-62 after Jaycee Carroll and Lafayette traded three-pointers with less than five minutes to go. After a timeout, Llull took matters into his own hands, hitting a floater and a basket-plus-foul on back-to-back possessions for 67-63 edge, but Lafayette replied with a triple and a floater to get Zalgiris back in front, 67-68. Madrid quickly regained the lead with a three-pointer from Fernandez, before Popovic tied things up again from the foul line and set up a thrilling ending. Reyes’s put-back gave the hosts a 72-70 lead, but with 41 seconds remaining, Ksistof Lavrinovic made a steal and drew an unsportsmanlike foul. He drained both free throws, but Kaukenas failed to inbound the ball on the ensuing possession, giving the ball back to Madrid. After Rodriguez missed the potential go-ahead three-pointer, Lafayette made a pair of free throws with 8.7 seconds on the clock for 72-74. However, Rodriguez made up for the earlier miss, making a triple from the right corner for 75-74 with only 3.5 seconds to go. After a timeout, there was plenty of time for Popovic to get a look for a game-winning three, but his shot hit the rim and Los Blancos could start celebrating hard-fought victory.
Friday, January 11, 2013