Madrid rallies in Kaunas to stay unbeaten
Reigning champion Real Madrid came back from a 14-point first half deficit to beat Zalgiris Kaunas 79-90 in an exciting showdown in Zalgirio Arena on Friday night. Madrid improved to 5-0 on the season, sharing the league-lead with CSKA Moscow, while Zalgiris suffered its third home loss in as many games to drop to 2-3. Rudy Fernandez scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, making 5 of 7 threes on the night while also dishing 7 assists, while Gustavo Ayon had a big night with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Paulius Jankunas led Zalgiris with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
There were fireworks from the hosts in the first quarter, with their offense clicking on all cylinders. Brandon Davies and Nate Wolters got Zalgiris going with mid-range shots, before the first jumper from Jankunas and a three-point play from Marius Grigonis opened a 19-8 lead. Fabien Causeur answered with a three-pointer and Sergio Llull hit from long range for Madrid, but Leo Westermann connected from deep for the hosts and Jankunas hit four more jumpers, including a buzzer-beater to give Zalgiris a 32-18 lead after 10 minutes. Madrid responded in the second quarter. Jaycee Carroll and Fernandez hit a triple apiece, and Facundo Campazzo made a triple-plus-foul during a 2-12 run to start the quarter. Arturas Milaknis and Wolters kept Zalgiris in front, but Anthony Randolph had an easy dunk and a three-point play that cut it to 44-43 at halftime. Madrid briefly took its first lead of the night on Randolph’s corner triple to start the second half, but Zalgiris quickly went back ahead behind Wolters and Jankunas. The latter traded mid-range jumpers with Llull, before a transition triple from Edgaras Ulanovas and a three-point play from Derrick Walton fueled a 10-0 run that gave the hosts a 64-54 edge. The hosts took a 68-62 lead into fourth quarter, but Madrid made a charge behind Campazzo, Ayon and Gabriel Deck who tied the score at 73-73 before Fernandez nailed a step-back three to give the visitors 73-76 lead. Madrid extended the margin with a tough triple from Randolph, and another downtown shot from Fernandez made it 74-82 with 2:14 to go. Two more threes from Rudy in the final 90 seconds sealed the deal.
Strong Finish From the Champs
Zalgiris led 71-64 early in the fourth quarter after a three-pointer from Milaknis, but Madrid answered with a 3-18 run sparked by Ayon and Deck, before Randolph hit one and Fernandez two triples to make it 74-82. Two more threes from Fernandez opened a 76-90 margin, capping a 5-26 spurt.
In that strong finish, 12 of Madrid’s 26 points were the work of Rudy Fernandez. He scored four triples in a span of 3 minutes and 40 seconds, and decided the contest.
Movers and Shakers
Randolph led Madrid in scoring with 16 points, and aside from Ayon and Fernandez the only other Madrid player in double figures was Sergio Llull with 10 points. For the hosts, Jankunas made 9 of 12 two-point shots to finish with 18 points in 22 minutes. Wolters scored 16 with 5 assists in 23 minutes. Brandon Davies finished with 11 points despite foul trouble, and Ulanovas added 10 in the losing effort.
Zalgiris scored 32 points in the first quarter, making 14 of 19 two-pointers and its only three-point attempt. Zalgiris dished 11 assists in the first 10 minutes, but with Madrid’s defensive adjustments the hosts then had only 10 more assists and 47 points the rest of the way.
In Round 6 both teams will play on the road. Real Madrid travels to face Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in a EuroLeague classic, while Zalgiris will visit Buducnost VOLI Podgorica for the first time in more than 15 years.
Friday, November 2, 2018