Real Madrid showed that it is ready for bigger challenges in the Top 16 when it dominated visiting Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv 90-75 to open Group E for both teams on Thursday. It was the 34th Euroleague showdown between both teams, but their first since 1998. Madrid broke the game open in the second quarter and never looked back. Igor Rakocevic led the winners with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Louis Bullock added 17 and Axel Hervelle had 15 for Real Madrid. Anthony Parker had 26 points for Maccabi while Nikola Vujcic added 18. As many as eight players scored as Madrid took a a 23-13 lead after 10 minutes. Bullock, Rakocevic and Hervelle boosted the margin to 42-17 midway through the second quarter, but an outstanding Parker allowed Maccabi to get within 49-41 early in the third period. A very aggressive and focused Madrid extended its margin to 69-48 after 30 minutes, however, and held off a late Maccabi rally to register a major win against the current Euroleague champs.
Derrick Sharp replaced a half-injured Will Solomon in Maccabi's starting lineup and immediately got his team going with a fallaway jumper. Tomas answered with a short shot for a 2-2 tie. Baston silenced the crowd with a high-flying dunk to give Maccabi a 2-5 lead. Reyes scored in the paint and Rakocevic slashed for a layup to put Madrid in charge, 6-5. Josh Fisher stepped up with a corner three, igniting a 7-0 run which Reyes capped with a long jumper, good for a 13-7 Madrid edge. Burstein rescued Maccabi with a mid-range jumper which Fisher matched with a driving basket. Axel Hervelle came off the bench and immediately hit a five-meter shot which gave Madrid a 17-9 margin after 7 minutes. The hosts switched to zone defense and Sharp beat it with a big three. Bullock shined with a driving layup while Rakocevic made free throws and fed Edu Hernandez-Sonseca for an uncontested layup which gave Madrid a 23-13 lead after 10 minutes.
Bullock nailed a three early in the second quarter and Rakocevic hit another one from downtown to make it a 16-point game, 29-13. Hervelle joined the three-point festival and then fed Gelabale for an easy layup, forcing Maccabi to call timeout at 34-15, after a mamooth 17-3 run. Vujcic nailed a turnaround jumper but Bullock and Hernandez-Sonseca buried back-to-back threes to boost Madrid's lead to 40-17, as the crowd went absolutely wild. Bullock capped a 8-0 run with a basket in penetration for a 25-point Madrid margin 42-17. Parker finally stepped up with a driving layup which Jamie Arnold followed with a basket-plus-foul. Madrid quickly called timeout, but Parker hit a three for a 42-25 Maccabi deficit. Hervelle answered from downtown, but Maccabi was now in the right track. Arnold scored in the paint, while Parker followed free throws with a short jumper to bring the reigning Euroleague champs within 45-31 at halftime.
Vujcic and Venson Hamilton exchanged layups right after the break, while Parker kept pacing Maccabi with a five-meter jumper. He followed it with an outstanding dunk-and-free throw to bring the guests within 47-38. Hamilton canned a four-meter shot but Vujcic answered from downtown to bring Maccabi even closer, 49-41. Bullock and Hamilton made free throws for Madrid, as Maccabi switched to 3-2 zone defense once it entered the foul bonus. Madrid got the most out of it, as Rakocevic and Bullock buried back-to-back three-pointers in a 13-1 run which boosted the margin to 62-42 after 26 minutes. Parker tried to change things with consecutive jumpers, but Madrid was at a different level of intensity and aggresseness. Hamilton had a big block on Jaime Arnold which led Rakocevic to fire in another three. Mickael Gelabale provided the highlight of the night with a dunk in traffic that helped Madrid stay fully in charge, 69-48, after 30 minutes.
Kirk Penney tried to ignite a Maccabi fourth-quarter comeback with a three-pointer that Vujcic followed with a close basket for a 69-53 scoreboard. Penney hit another triple while Parker scored in the low post to give Maccabi a 0-12 run and some hope at 69-58. Madrid called a much-needed timeout, after which Hervelle and Sharp exchanged three-pointers for a 72-63 score with 6 minutes to go. After Josh Fisher beat the shot clock with a triple for the hosts and Hervelle copied him from downtown, Madrid was comfortably ahead again, 78-65. Arnold and Vujcic combined for 4 quick points to make it a 10-point game, 79-69, but Rakocevic answered with a basket-plus-free throw to keep the hosts fully in charge. Felipe Reyes made an uncontested layup to which Marko Tomas added a corner triple for Madrid to seal the outcome at 88-71 with under 3 minutes to go. Maccabi could not rally, as Madrid cruised to a big home win in its Top 16 opener!
Thursday, February 23, 2006