Real Madrid kept its Quarterfinals Playoff series and Final Four chances alive by beating archrivals Winterthur FC Barcelona 84-78 at home on Thursday. The best-of-three series is now tied at 1-1, but Barcelona will host decisive Game 3 in a do-or-die showdown next Thursday for a ticket to the Final Four in Prague. Axel Hervelle had 13 points in the final period, in which Madrid rallied from a five-point deficit to win the game. Venson Hamilton led the winners with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting, Hervelle added 20 while Louis Bullock had 18 on 4 of 4 triples for Madrid. Juan Carlos Navarro, who had been scoreless in Game 1, led Barcelona with 21 points on 4 of 5 three-pointers. Gianluca Basile added 15 for the guests. Basile led Barcelona to a 56-61 edge with 9 minutes to go, but Hervelle and Hamilton shined in a game-breaking 21-7 run which allowed the hosts to seal the outcome long before the final buzzer and tie the series.
Hamilton started strong for Madrid, sandwiching a pair of shots around a three-point basket-plus-free throw by Gregor Fucka of Barcelona. Bullock made the Madrid lead 6-3 before Basile blasted his first attempt and Bootsy Thornton downed a triple from the corner for Barcelona's first advantage, 6-8. It didn't last, however, as Bullock drilled the next shot from the arc. Back and forth the lead went, with Basile making his patented turnaround off a screen, Hamilton scoring 4 points off a steal and free throws, the Basile doing it again and watching Shammond Williams bury a triple to put Barcelona up 13-15. Alex Scales tied for Madrid before Hervelle got into the act by canning his first three-pointer. Basile and he then traded free throws before Scales his a last one from the line to leave Madrid holding a 21-17 edge after a quarter.
Barcelona came back to the floor with a different attitude, as Jordi Trias scored around the basket and then fed Kakiouzis for another layup, good for a 21-21 tie. Axel Hervelle came to the rescue with a put-back layup but Barcelona had gained the momentum. Juan Carlos Navarro ran the length of the court to score off a steal, his first points in the series, then he found Rodrigo De La Fuente for a layup which put the guests in charge, 23-25. Barcelona kept its outstanding man-to-man defense which led the team to win Game 1, but Madrid failed to have answers for a while until it found a go-to guy in Hamilton. He followed a free throw with a basket-plus-foul to give the hosts a 27-25 edge. Navarro woke up with a corner three, and even when Bullock copied him in the other end, once again Navarro fired in one from the arc for a 30-31 Barcelona lead. Both teams went scoreless for almost 2 minutes until Denis Marconato scored in the paint. Mickael Gelabale fired up the crowd with a dunk which Gregor Fucka erased with a jump hook. Reyes and Ed Cota exchanged free throws to keep Barcelona ahead, 34-37, at halftime.
Hamilton got Real Madrid going right after the break with a two-handed dunk which Navarro erased with free throws to keep Barcelona in charge, 36-39. Real Madrid tried to look for Gelabale, who was guarded by Navarro, but Barcelona stayed aggressive in the defensive board. Even with that, Bullock fired in a running triple which De La Fuente matched with his own shot from downtown. Rakocevic joined the three-point festival for a 42-42 tie, as Madrid kept powering the boards. Bullock grabbed an offensive board and hit free throws before returning to the bench. Williams stepped up with a seven-meter triple but Hamilton scored again to give Madrid a 46-45 edge midway through this period. Trias canned a jumper which Axel Scales matched with a reverse layup before Basile decided to take over. He buried a big triple, added a jumper and hit a free throw in a 0-6 run in which he had all points. Rakocevic broke the hosts' scoring draught with a floating layup while Bullock nailed a triple off a Madrid timeout. Fucka shined with a four-meter jumper to keep Barcelona ahead, 53-57, at the end of an intense third quarter.
Hervelle stepped up with a basket-plus-foul early in the final period but a free throw by Marconato and a three-pointer by Bootsy Thornton gave the guests a 56-61 edge. Hervelle kept pacing Madrid with a mid-range jumper which he followed with a critical triple from the left wing, forcing Barcelona to call timeout at 61-61. Thornton beat the shot clock with a bomb from downtown in front of two defenders but Hervelle - who else? - matched it with a three-point play, igniting a 8-0 run which Gelabale capped with one from the arc to make Barcelona call timeout at 69-64. The guests lacked concentration in both ends now, as Madrid kept powering the boards to stay ahead. Hervelle shined again with a put-back reverse layup while Rakocevic beat the shot clock with a power layup for a 73-67 Madrid lead. Williams tried to wake Barcelona up but Bullock stepped up with a floating layup while Hamilton scored around the basket to seal the win, 77-68, with under 3 minutes to go. Nothing changed in the remaining minutes, as Real Madrid cruised to a well-deserved win.
Thursday, April 6, 2006