Madrid roars past 100 into first place!
Avenging a close loss from one month ago, Real Madrid took over exclusive possession of first place in Group A and put one foot in the Top 16 by overwhelming Khimki Moscow Region 104-81 before a happy crowd in the Spanish capital on Friday. Madrid raised its record to 5-2, all but mathematically qualified for the next round, while Khimki fell to 4-3 and a second-place tie with Fenerbahce Ulker and Panathinaikos Athens. The visitors from Russia tried and succeeded to score with their hosts, until Madrid took a 46-45 halftime lead, its first in 15 minutes. After that, though, the hosts exploded with 58 points in the second half, and Khimki couldn't match. Rudy Fernandez led the five Madrid double-figure scorers with 23 points in just 17 minutes. Nikola Mirotic followed with 17 and 8 rebounds. Jaycee Carroll and Sergio Llull had 14 each and Felipe Reyes 10 for Madrid. Sergei Monya hit 5 of 6 three-pointers to lead Khimki with 19 points, while Vitaly Fridzon added 17 and Zoran Planinic 15. But Khimki had sparse inside scoring and lost the battle on the boards 34 rebounds to 24 while letting Madrid make 70% of its two-point shots.
Khimki surges into lead
Madrid center Mirza Begic set an aggressive tone by blocking the first shot attempted, by Kresimir Loncar. Donte Draper drove for Madrid first basket before Sergio Lull curled and banking in a left-handed runner for the second. Petteri Koponen put Khimki on the board with the game's first three-pointer, but Llull sandwiched two more drives around a hook shot by Loncar, and when Begic dropped his first shot, Madrid was ahead 10-5. Khimki responded with a flurry, however; Koponen, Loncar and Planinic reeled off a basket each before Rivers got open for a triple for a sudden 10-14 Khimki advantage. Llull went back inside to end the visitors' 0-9 run, but when Alexey Zhukanenko scored and Planinic finished a tough fastbreak, Khimki was up 12-18 and Madrid needed a timeout. Mirotic and Planinic traded baskets before Fridzon joined Khimki's scoring chart from downtown for a 16-23 advantage. In the quarter's final 40 seconds, however, Fernandez stole and scored along before Carroll drilled his first shot, a transition triple, to cut the difference to 21-23 after 10 minutes.
Madrid retakes lead despite Monya's shooting
A rock 'em, sock 'em second quarter started with bodies on the floor and Fernandez scoring an acrobatic layup. But Khimki responded with a beautiful feed from Koponen to Davis for a three-point play as Khimki went up 23-27. Fernandez matched it with one shot that hit nothing but net. After Madrid missed a chance to take the lead, Fridzon made the hosts pay from downtown, but Fernandez wasn't worried. He bettered it with a four-point play that Monya immediately answered with his own three-pointer to make it 30-33. After Reyes made a free throw, Slaughter tipped in a high-speed layup that missed to complete Madrid's comeback to a 33-33 tie. After a timeout, Khimki got a long two-pointer from Planinic to beat the shot clock. The shooting show continued with dueling triples from Sergio Rodriguez and Monya before Planinic 36-40 on a masterful drive. Reyes responded with a hook shot-plus-free throw, but Monya buried his third shot from the arc in 4 minutes. After Reyes swished a lane jumper, Slaughter rejected Rivers at the rim, which sent Carroll to the free throw line to forge a 42-42 tie. Rivers preserved a lead for Khimki with 2 free throws, but Reyes did him one better, going 3 for 4 in the final minute to give Madrid its first lead in almost 15 minutes, 46-45, heading into halftime.
Rudy marches Madrid ahead
A pair of penetrations for free throws by Fernandez and a three-point play by Mirotic forced a quick Khimki timeout after the break. Down 51-45, the visitors found Fridzon for a clean jumper and 2 layups. In between, Fernandez banked a nifty fall-back shot in the lane to which Mirotic soon added a baseline finger-roll as Madrid stayed ahead 55-61. Fernandez continued with 2 free throws and an underhand dish to Mirotic on the break for Madrid's biggest run, 59-51. Madrid went up by double digits with free throws by Fernandez and Draper, then got to 65-53 on a breakaway that Mirotic finished. Monya returned with another triple, but Fernandez was right behind him with his own shot from the arc to preserve the double-digit difference. Mirotic added 4 quick points at 72-58 before Augustine dunked for Khimki, but then got shot over by Mirotic. Madrid saved its best for the last play as Martynas Pocius and Mirotic made quick passes to get Llull open for a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and establish the game's biggest lead, 79-64.
Los Blancos keep shooting past 100
Inside baskets by Slaughter and Loncar got the fourth quarter going before Llull raised the roof again with a second-chance triple. Loncar matched those points the hard way, with a running hook and free throw. Pocius stepped up with his own triple for the game's highest lead, 87-67, before Khimki responded with two-pointers by Fridzon, Monya and Planinic. After a Madrid timeout, Slaughter got the hosts back on track with a basket inside, and soon Carroll hit a curling hook to make it 93-74. by the time Pocius went to the free throw line to bury 3 free throws with 5 minutes to play, the 100-point mark was on the minds of all Madrid fans. Carroll got Madrid to the brink of it with a triple at 99-76, and soon. Reyes did the honor from the free throw line and newcomer Rafael Hettsheimeir knocked down his first shot as a Euroleague player as Madrid finished with the home crowd on its feet in appreciation for a great display by their team.
Friday, November 23, 2012