Real Madrid rallied from double-digit deficits in the first half to race past Alba Berlin and into the ULEB Cup quarterfinals with a 73-57 home victory on Tuesday. Since Madrid had also won the series opener, 65-74 in Berlin, it joined six other teams in sweeping their eighthfinals series 2-0. Madrid will now face Crvena Zvezda in the quarters. Those two teams split their regular season games in Group D, each winning at home. Having played three games in the previous four days, Madrid started slow against Alba and hit bottom with a 12-24 score early in the second quarter. From there, however, point guard Raul Lopez sparked a comeback that saw both teams even through the third quarter and Madrid pulling away in the fourth. Lopez led the winners with 15 points, while Charles Smith and Blagota Sekulic posted 12 each. Nikolai Simon had 12 and William Avery 11 for Alba, which required a 10-point win in Tuesday's rematch to advance.
Avery opened the scoring for the visitors on a second-chance layup after an offensive rebound. Real Madrid showed its power on the boards, getting 3 consecutive offensive rebounds, but still went scoreless for the game's first 3 minutes. Johannes Herber scored a layup for Alba, but was quickly responded to by Blagota Sekulic, who scored on an assist by Lopez. Another basket in the paint by Sharrod Ford gave the visitors a four point lead, 2-6, before Louis Bullock and Koko Archibong exchanged three-pointers midway through the first quarter. After good ball movement, Alba forced the first timeout of Madrid by hitting yet another shot from beyond the arc as Johannes Herber was able to find Nicolai Simon open in the corner. Marko Milic for Madrid and Chris Owens for Alba both hit three-pointers now, while Felipe Reyes and Lopez scored free throws to make it a four-point game, 11-15. Madrid continued to show inside strength by rebounding and drawing fouls, from which Reyes scored a free throw, but Alba found Nenad Canak for the last shot of the quarter, a triple in transition that kept the visitors in charge, 11-18, after 10 minutes. Canak kept it going into the second quarter by driving past Reyes for a layup. And when Simon hit a huge shot from downtown and the free throw that came with it, his four-point play meant an unexpected 12-point lead for Alba, 12-24. Marko Tomas then ignited a Madrid reaction with 5 consecutive points on free throws and a layup. This cut the difference to 17-24, but Oskar Fassler quieted the crowd by burying a shot from downtown. Tomas not only responded with his own, but soon had help as Sekulic downed free throws and Lopez spotted up for a triple that made the double-digit difference a memory at 28-29. Before the half could end, Lopez would indeed complete the comeback with 5 more points that made it 33-33, but his last triple was copied by Avery before the buzzer to keep Alba up at the break, 33-36.
Avery scored first in the second half, too, with a mid-range jumper that Lopez answered with a quick driving layup. Avery scored next on an offensive rebound, while Lopez kept leading Real Madrid offensively, this time scoring from beyond the arc for another tie, 40-40. Axel Hervelle soon copied him with a wide-open triple that meant Madrid's first lead of the game, 43-40. Alba responded by running post plays for Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, who scored a short jumper and a free throw. Johannes Herber then scored a power layup and Simon drilled another triple in transition to cap a 0-7 run that gave the visitors back the lead at 43-48 after 28 minutes. Madrid did the guests one better, however, as Reyes and Smith combined on 8 points to finish the third quarter with the hosts leading 51-48. Reyes and Jovo Stanojevic exchanged baskets to open the last quarter, then Smith assisted Kerem Tunceri on a layup. Madrid based its game on hard defense now, forcing a pair of turnovers from Alba. Smith made the visitors pay with a triple, while Hervelle stole and scored a layup tht put the series, if not the game, practically out of reach at 60-50 with 6 minutes to go. Smith added a layup and free throws to the margin, just to make sure, as the Madrid crowd celebrated the qualification
Tuesday, February 13, 2007