Real Madrid clinched a berth in the Quarterfinal Playoffs as it beat Maccabi Electra in Tel Aviv for the first time in more than a decade, 69-73 at Nokia Arena on Thursday night. Madrid scored 12 unanswered poinst in the opening minutes and never trailed after that for its fifth straight win. Maccabi, which clawed its way back to within 2 in the final minutes, was undone by Madrid’s rebounding. The visitors won the battle of the boards 32-41 – including 16 on the offensive end that gave them multiple second chance opportunities even when the Maccabi defense was initially successful in limiting Madrid to tough shots. Madrid travels to Regal Barcelona next week knowing a win would give it first place in Group F and home-court advantage in the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Maccabi faces a must win test in Berlin and needs Madrid to beat Barca to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Raul Lopez led the way for Madrid with 17 points, including two three-pointers early in the fourth quarter that squashed Maccabi’s first comeback attempt and 2 free throws with 20 seconds to go that proved decisive. Louis Bullock added 15 points, Felipe Reyes scored 13 and Axel Hervelle grabbed 10 rebounds. Carlos Arroyo paced Maccabi with a season-high 26 points, Omri Casspi scored 15, D’Or Fischer 13 and Lior Eliyahu recorded 9 points and 8 rebounds in defeat.
Maccabi won the opening tip and struck first when Tal Burstein fed Fischer for a jump shot. Lopez put Madrid on the scoreboard with free throws before Alex Mumbru drilled a long three-pointer. Madrid’s defense frustrated the Maccabi attack while Mumbru drilled a second triple to cap a 0-12 Madrid charge. After a Maccabi timeout and some lineup changes, Fischer hit a baseline jumper and went inside for three the hard way to spark his team. Bullock responded with an off-balance three, but Marcus Brown hit a cutting Casspi to get Maccabi within 9-15. Reyes muscled his way in for a basket-plus-foul only to see Casspi come through with two more baskets. Bullock netted another jumper with a hand in his face and Hervelle added a layup as Madrid remained in control. Bullock soon made it a double-digit lead. Arroyo sandwiched a pair of baskets around Tomas Van den Spiegel’s tip-in to keep the hosts within 17-26 after 10 minutes.
Arroyo remained hot with a jumper to open the second period, however Lopez connected on a reverse and then added a triple to make it 19-31. Pepe Sanchez added a rare three as Madrid increased its lead to 15. Arroyo and Fischer both made free throws, however a Jeremiah Massey three-pointer – his first in eight games – followed by a Reyes basket made it 23-39. Maccabi didn’t quit as Arroyo scored twice and Casspi fought for a basket in the paint. Arroyo worked the pick-and-roll with Fischer to bring Maccabi within 8. Bullock fed Reyes for a bucket and Mumbru made it 31-43 from the line. The physicality of the game increased with offensive fouls whistled at both ends. Marcus Brown found his way to the basket, but Marko Tomas bettered him with a triple for what would prove to be the final score of the half, 35-46.
Lopez followed his own missed three to bank in a jumper at the start of the second half. Casspi rifled in a triple to the delight of the fans and Hervelle’s second chance basket was matched by Fischer’s follow-up slam. Bullock’s triple and Reyes’s short jumper silenced the crowd. Arroyo gave Maccabi hope with a three, but the hosts couldn’t garner any momentum. The Maccabi defense had some success, however Madrid continued to own the offensive glass. But Eliyahu’s steal and slam awoke the crowd and made it 49-55. After a Madrid timeout, Hervelle drew a foul on the offensive glass and ended his team’s three-plus minutes scoring drought with a free throw. Eliyahu scored inside and Hagag missed a chance to get even closer as the Maccabi got within 51-56 heading into the fourth period.
Marcus Brown brought Maccabi within 3 as the excitement grew, however Lopez stood tall and rifled in a three-pointer. Eliyahu drew a foul and sank a free throw, but Lopez added another three as Madrid regained the momentum. Van den Spiegel scored inside to make it 56-64. Arroyo didn’t give up and fired in a triple before scoring on the break to make it a 3-point game. Madrid’s rebounding advantage stifled Maccabi, even though the visitors were having trouble scoring. Reyes tipped in a Bullock miss and Hervelle scored a second-chance layup to make it 61-68 midway through the fourth quarter. Arroyo fed Eliyahu for a nifty shot, but Bullock’s rainbow three kept Madrid in control. Casspi free throws and a Sanchez turnover gave Maccabi hope and Arroyo free throws 1:16 remaining made it 67-71. Derrick Sharp created a steal that led to an open Arroyo look from downtown. He missed, but Eliyahu grabbed the offensive rebound, was fouled and sank 2 free throws. Madrid was unable to convert on offense, however another offensive rebound allowed the visitors to take more time off the clock. Maccabi sent Lopez to the line and he converted 2 with 20 seconds to play. Casspi had two looks from downtown, but missed both as Maccabi’s playoff hopes suffered a critical blow and Madrid celebrated a quarterfinals berth.
Thursday, February 26, 2009