Real Madrid of Spain mustered all of its considerable pride and preserved its last hopes of making the Final Four with an inspired 104-113 Group F win over Ural Great in Perm, Russia on Wednesday. The two teams set a 2001-02 Euroleague record for scoring in a single game, with 217 points total, six more than a regular season game between Ural and Partizan (100-111). Madrid's point total was the highest of the Top 16 so far and one point shy of the season-long record it already shares with Tau Ceramica. Madrid raised its record to 2-2 with the victory, good for second place behind Kinder Bologna (3-0), which plays Thursday. Ural fell to 1-3 and holds only a miracle hope of survival now.
Playing without any of its regular big men, Madrid found an unexpected star in teenage center Eduardo Hernandez, who scored 28 points and outperformed Ural's well-regarded frontline down the stretch despite playing the final quarter with four fouls. Alberto Angulo was the other big gun for Madrid, scoring a season-high 30 points. Dusan Vukcevic added 21 and Sasha Djordjevic 16 off the bench for the winners. Madrid made an incredible 34-for-34 free throws, establishing this season's records for foul shots made without a miss. For Ural, Top 16 leading scorer Panagiotis Liadelis scored 27, Ruslan Avleev 23, Alexei Pegushin 17, Vasili Karasev and Mikhail Mikhailov 10 each. Four Ural players - Liadelis, Pegushin, Karasev and Sergei Panov - fouled out before it was over. Ural is left with one last opportunity to get a Top 16 home victory for its regular crowd of 8,200, that in the final Top 16 game on April 17 against none other than Kinder Bologna.
The first quarter was another shootout in Perm, with the hosts getting big numbers out of Avleev, while Madrid had an unexpected catalyst in Hernandez, the 19-year-old center subbing almost singlehandedly for injured veterans Zan Tabak, Eric Struelens and Dragan Tarlac. With Madrid concentrating its defense on Liadelis, the Top 16 scoring leader, Avleev saw the ball early and often and did not waste the opportunities. The Ural small forward would finish the quarter with 12 points, more than his final scoring total in either of the previous two games. This time, however, Avleev's easy scoring was indicative of Madrid having few bench players available and being unwilling to take early fouls. Meanwhile, Ural's defense had its own problems, the evidence being that Hernandez, playing his first full quarter of the Euroleague season, was able to put up 11 points, almost half of which came at the foul line. Apart from Hernandez, Madrid played a small lineup, with Stefano Atrruia starting in place of Sasha Djordjevic at guard and Dusan Vukcevic as the second tallest player on the floor for the visitors. The running started right away and the only pause came when Alberto Angulo put in a final shot to give Madrid a 25-27 lead after 10 minutes.
That lead would not last, however. Liadelis got started in the second quarter and put up 5 points in a 7-2 run that pushed Ural ahead 32-29. But Djordjevic was out there, too, now, and his first three-pointer put Madrid back in front, 35-36. Back and forth the two teams went with the lead. Alexei Pegushin answered with a three for Ural, Alberto Angulo came back down the floor and hit his own, then Liadelis put the home team back again 39-38. Liadelis would score again as the Ural lead hit 46-63, but Djordjevic erased it with one shot, his second three-pointer of the quarter, for a 46-46 tie. Pegushin, who like Hernandez had been a bit player all season, now took up the charge, scoring his third three-pointer of the quarter as Ural was able to make it to the half with a slim 52-50 lead. Avleev still led his team with 14 points at that point, while Pegushin and Liadelis were on 11 each. Hernandez was up to 13, Alberto Angulo 11 and Djordjevic 10 for Madrid.
Madrid came out of the lockerrooms on fire. Behind consecutive threes from Angulo and Vukcevic, then a three-point play and then a dunk from Hernandez, Madrid suddenly led 53-56. Mikhail Mikhailov tried to get Ural back into the game earning his way to the line with determined play inside, but he missed four straight free throw attempts, two of which were air balls. Finally, it was Liadellis and Avleev who picked up the slack for the Russians to bring it within two at 61-63. Angulo was not to be silenced, however, as he scored the next three baskets for the Whites, but he was answered right back by Pegushin who hit consecutive threes to keep Ural in the game. Ural had crept back to within one-point at 68-69 but a 2-8 run by the visitors to close out the period, including a crazy jump shot from Lucio Angulo at the buzzer, gave Madrid a comfortable 70-77 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
The final quarter was a shootout at both ends. After Avleev and Bashminov helped bring Ural back, Madrid youngster Maciej Lampe hit his second from downtown that gave the Whites their biggest lead of the game at 74-82. It did not last very long though. Mikhailov made up for his earlier miscues and combined with Liadellis and Bowie to cut the lead to just two after a 6-0 run in the 34th minute. But that would be the closest Ural would get for the rest of the game. The teams continued to run over the next several minutes, exchanging baskets almost every time down the court as neither team tried too hard on defense. Djordjevic re-entered the game for Madrid and gave them some renewed life on offense whil Liadellis and Avleev were the only sparks for Ural. In the the 37th minute, Ural had come within four at 87-91, but two dunks later, both by Hernandez, Madrid was back on top by 8 and firmly in control. Over the final 2 minutes, Ural made the not-so-wise decision of fouling Madrid on offense to force them into converting from the stripe. Up to that point in the game, the visitors had made 22 of 22. They continued to their impeccable performance converting 12 of 12 and ending 34 of 34. Ural had few choices remaining after Madrid's superb marksmanship and several desparation threes in the final minute only served to keep the final deficit in single digits.
Wednesday, March 27, 2002