Unicaja put itself among the hottest teams in the Euroleague at the end of 2005 when it won its fifth straight game in Group C by 71-61 over visiting Real Madrid in a Spanish derby on Wednesday. Unicaja connected on 13 of 28 three-pointers on the night, including 7 by Jorge Garbajosa himself, to break part of its second-place tie with Real Madrid. Unicaja is now 6-2 and will at least share second place, while Madrid dropped to third or fourth at 5-3. Garbajosa led the winners with 26 points. Carlos Cabezas added 14, Marcus Brown 12 and Walter Herrmann 11, including 3 more triples. For Madrid, Mous Sonko led the way against his ex-team with 17 points and Venson Hamilton had 12. Madrid recovered from a 12-0 Unicaja start as Sonko and Hamilton got the visitors back in the game, but it only lasted until Garbajosa's fireworks display in the third quarter gave Unicaja all the confidence it needed to finish strong.
Herrmann opened the game with a triple from the corner and Garbajosa added another one for a 6-0 Unicaja lead. The Unicaja defense started tight forcing Madrid turnovers and Cabezas scored 4 more points to make it 10-0. Daniel Santiago made it 12-0 with a spin in the paint, but Marko Tomas finally found a space from 4 meters to get Madrid on the board at 12-2. Garbajosa replied with his second triple, igniting the fans. Unicaja seemed to find good shots after three passes or less while Madrid struggled in offense. However, two straight mistakes by Herrmann in offense allowed the guests to score four straight points, 17-8. The scoring pace slowed down and Hamilton helped with a monster dunk over Herrmann, and Sonko scored for 19-10. A spectacular putback by Hamilton made it a 7-point game, but Cabezas closed the quarter with two free throws, 23-14.
An amazing triple by Sonko from 8 meters to beat the shot clock opened the second quarter, as the game turned harder in both paints. Real Madrid got closer and closer but Louis Bullock committed his third foul in minute 13 and had to seat on the bench. On the other end, Garbajosa fed Marcus Brown for a new triple, 26-19 but Sonko maintained Madrid on the edge. Brown continued his scoring streak with two free throws and Unicaja turned to zone defense forcing Madrid's turnover. However, the same happened on the other side as Axel Hervelle hesitated to finish a fastbreak, but Brown answered with his 8th straight point with a new triple, 31-23, Unicaja's fifth in seven attempts. The guests dominated in rebounds but it wasn't until Mickael Gelabale nailed a three-point play that Real Madrid got within 5 points, 35-30, but Berni Rodriguez scored the last basket of the first half for a 37-30.
Cabezas opened the scoring race of the second half with a triple to neutralize Real Madrid's zone defense, but Sonko replied in the same way, 40-33. Garbajosa found the third triple of the period after a fast and precise combination of Unicaja. It looked like the fast scoring rhythm of the first quarter returned to the Martin Carpena. Hamilton was very active for Madrid underneath at the same time as defenses grew tougher and fouls fell for each side, especially in offense with Santiago and Reyes committing their respective fourth fouls. Real Madrid insisted on the zone defense and it succeeded as Hamilton scored again against everybody in Unicaja's paint, 44-39. Garbajosa and Sonko traded triples and then Bullock added a new one to pull Real Madrid within 45-48. But the three-point shootout went on as Herrmann and Garbajosa blasted new triples for Unicaja for a fast 54-45. Real Madrid struggled as Unicaja had a big momentum and the arena burned when Cabezas and Herrmann avoided a backcourt in a fancy way. Garbajosa nailed free throws for a 56-45 after 30 minutes.
Hamilton scored for Madrid again but Unicaja grabbed offensive rebounds and looked for long plays to secure the lead. Both teams had a hard time to score but Unicaja continued with the siege on Madrid's basket, but it was Hamilton again who scored the scoring drought with two free throws. Pietrus finally scored for Unicaja after more than 4 minutes without points with a layup and Herrmann added a triple to calm the atmosphere, 61-52. Time was running out for Madrid but Unicaja's defense held the guests to the last seconds of the possession every time. Hamilton and Herrmann traded baskets, but Garbajosa blasted his sixth triple of the night for 66-56 with 3 minutes to go. Pepe Sanchez stole the ball and the ball reached Garbajosa for a new triple, 69-56, and almost killing the game. Reyes only managed to find a free throw for Real Madrid but in the next play the hosts missed and Reyes found a foul for another trip to the line, 69-59. But it was not enough as Unicaja got the ball for the remaining minute to secure a win against a direct rival in the group.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005