Real Madrid opens Top 16 with big road win
Real Madrid opened the Top 16 with an important 63-77 road win over Alba Berlin at o2 World in the German capital. The visitors led for nearly the entire game spare for a brief stretch in the second quarter. Nonetheless, the hosts battled hard, kept it close throughout and closed the gap to 57-60 early in the fourth quarter before the hosts pulled away to close out the win. Sergio Llull paced Los Blancos with 15 points and 6 assists, while Rudy Fernandez, Nikola Mirotic and Jaycee Carroll added 13 points apiece. Rudy also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists for Madrid, which benefitted from 20 Alba turnovers. Albert Miralles netted 14 points and JeKel Foster scored 10 in his first Euroleague appearance for Berlin.
First quarter: Visitors start strong, build double-digit advantage
Mirotic stood out early for Madrid with the game’s first points on a hook shot, a pair of defensive rebounds and a three from the elbow to make it 0-7 before Yassin Idbihi went inside to get Alba on the scoreboard. Rafael Hettsheimeir’s second basket was followed by a Llull three to put the visitors ahead by double figures, 2-12, after four minutes. After a timeout, Berlin went with a smaller lineup using Derrick Byars at power forward and promptly scored twice through guards Foster and DaShaun Wood. However a triple by Rudy kept Los Blancos in control. Foster created a highlight when he regained a lost ball and scored a layup-plus-foul, which made it 11-18 and sent Hettsheimeir to the bench with 2 fouls. Sven Schultze’s jumper narrowed the gap to 5. The teams traded scores over several possessions before Mirotic, with a block at one end and a layup at the other, made it 17-26. Mirza Begic fouled Miralles twice in 20 seconds, which led to 3 free throws and a 20-26 score through 10 minutes.
Second quarter: Berlin storms back to briefly take lead
Zach Morley dished inside to Miralles to bring the hosts within 4 early in the second quarter. Despite a layup by Llull, Idbihi added a baseline jumper and Deon Thompson first basket came with a one-handed shot in the paint to close the gap to 26-28. Sergio Rodriguez found Felipe Reyes down low for an easy 2, but Byars countered from downtown to make it a 1-point game. Free throws by Marcus Slaughter and Carroll gave Madrid a bit of breathing room, but the Berliners struck back quickly. A basket by Morley followed by a Heiko Schaffartzik triple gave Alba its first lead, 34-33, as o2 World kept rocking. With the pressure on, Carroll showed up for Madrid with 5 consecutive points. A pair of missed open threes kept Madrid from extending the lead, but the visitors kept a 34-38 advantage at the break.
Third quarter: Madrid remains on top, Berlin hangs tough
Hettsheimeir scored on the opening possession of the second half and fouled Schaffartzik on the second possession. Schaffartzik fed Byars for a three from the corner as Alba remained close. However another efficient basket by Hettsheimeir and a Lull triple lifted the Whites to a double-digit edge and Rudy added a triple for a 37-50 lead. Miralles ended the Madrid run with a jump hook and Foster pulled up for a three to keep the crowd involved. Miralles muscled his way to a three-point play and Hettsheimeir’s fourth foul. A third three by Rudy kept Madrid up by 10, 45-55. Thompson corrected his own miss to bring the hosts within 6. Alas a Mirotic slam after a lost Berlin ball and a Llull triple carried Madrid to a 49-60 advantage. Berlin continued to fight; Wood made free throws and then assisted to Schultze for a basket-plus-foul to bring Alba within 54-60 at the end of the quarter.
Fourth quarter: Madrid closes out important road win
Wood rifled in a triple as the tension continued to build. Sergio Rodriguez hit a jumper to stave off the hosts. Madrid was unable to capitalize on an unsportsmanlike foul called on Byars against Marcus Slaughter, but Carroll answered the call to make it 57-64. Miralles and Reyes traded baskets midway through the fourth quarter. A steal and layup by Rodriguez extended the lead to 9 and led to a Berlin timeout. Rodriguez capped another fastbreak with a layup as o2 World fell silent. Wood’s free throws were matched by Carroll as the visitors held strong. Slaughter helped ice the win with a pair of offensive rebounds to kill the clock inside of two minutes and a Mirotic triple from the corner with a minute to go ended all doubt as Los Blancos marched to the first win of the Top 16.
Thursday, December 27, 2012