Real Madrid solidified its chances to make the Top 16 as it broke a tie in Group A by thrashing Prokom Trefl Sopot 76-66 at home on Wednesday. Madrid is now 5-4 and at least owns sole possession of fourth place in Group A, if not also a piece of third, depending on further results on Thursday. Prokom fell to 4-5 and will at least have a share of fifth place. Madrid's defense did not let Prokom up for air much, holding the guests to 16 points or fewer in the first three quarters. Due to injuries, Louis Bullock played the whole game at point guard and finished with 22 points and 5 assists for the winners. Alberto Herreros added 15 with near-perfect shooting: 3 of 3 two-pointers, 2 of 2 threes and 3 of 4 free throws. Mickael Gelabale did the rest with a double-double of 10 often spectacular points and 10 rebounds. For Prokom, Adam Wojcik led the way with 15 points, while Goran Jagodnik put up 14 and Andrija Ciric 10.
Almost 3 scoreless minutes to start the game made it clear that two of the Euroleague's best defenses were on the floor. Wojcik and Gelabale finally exchanged baskets but it was the Prokom big man who added a couple more and a free throw to send his team ahead 5-11. Madrid was stuck offensively until Antonis Fotsis dropped a jumper in minute 8. Gelabale then turned things around for the hosts with his own three-point play, a blocked shot and an assist on Pat Burke's dunk that put Madrid ahead 14-13. Alex Hervelle rose up and hit from the arc to push the lead to 17-13 but Ciric answered for Prokom before the quarter could end with 17-16 on the scoreboard.
Madrid kept taking control with defense as Mario Stojic scored a fastbreak layup and Bullock a jumper in the lane to lead 21-16. Bench bombers Istvan Nemeth and Mark Miller saved Prokom at that point, each drilling a shot from the arc as the guests pulled within 25-24. After Hervelle restored a five-point Madrid lead at 24-29, Miller and Ciric again cut the difference to a point, 29-28. Herreros led Madrid's big move then, scoring from inside and outside the arc in the same minute. Antonio Bueno added free throws and Bullock a jumper for a 9-0 run before Ciric was able to pull off a basket for Prokom to cut Madrid's lead at halftime back to single digitis, 38-30.
With a triple and a layup, respectively, Tomas Pacesas and Tomas Masiulis tried to shoot Prokom back into it, but Herreros got 4 of those points back himself as Madrid still led 42-35. Before the middle of the third quarter, Herreros was back with another triple, and Madrid's lead had reached double digits again, 47-37. Hervelle and Bullock soon added their own three-pointers to the board and Madrid was up 53-40. Just as important, no Prokom player except Wojcik had been able to score since the first minute after halftime. Bullock soon tacked on another big triple and Gelabale dunked a rebound to set the Madrid advantage at 59-44 after 30 minutes.
Madrid's defense wasn't about to allow a fourth-quarter comeback. After a jumper by Herreros raised the margin to 61-44, the home team allowed only 4 points by Mark Miller over the first 4 minutes of the quarter. In the next minute, Jagodnik fired in a pair of triples, cutting the lead to 64-54, but with 5 minutes to go, Madrid didn't feel threatened. Even when Istvan Nemeth nailed his second shot from the arc for Prokom, Gelabale was there to answer with his own triple. Bullock had 2 more free throws and a three-pointer in him before taking a seat in the final minute to strong applause that included three injured point guards on Madrid's bench: Elmer Bennett, Troy Bell and Mous Sonko.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005