Anti-climax never looked so good to the fans of PalaMalaguti arena in Bologna than on Thursday when Kinder did the unexpected, losing at home 71-82 to injury-plagued Real Madrid, but vaulted into the Final Four anyway. Kinder had only to lose by 28 points or less to clinch first place in Group F and assure its fans that when the Final Four comes to PalaMalaguti in less than a month, the defending champs and home team will be there. That was all that mighty Kinder could manage, however, against a Madrid team lacking five regular players who did not even make the trip. Instead, an Italian transplant, Stefano Attruia led the visitors with 19 points, Alberto Herreros came off the bench for 16 more and a host of hustling players normally on the bench held Kinder to its second-lowest point total of the Euroleague season. Thanks, however, to 20 points from Marko Jaric and 13 from Emanuel Ginobili, the difference wasn't enough to undo what Kinder had accomplished up to this point, so the PalaMalaguti crowd will see their heroes defend the Euroleague crown May 3 to 5.
With stars Sasha Djordjevic and Dragan Tarlac, among others, back in Madrid nursing injures, the visitors started with Stefano Attruia at the point and young Eduardo Hernandez in the paint. Kinder took the first significant lead of the game thanks to three triples in a row, two by Antoine Rigaudeau and the other by Manuel Ginobili. Kinder led 13-9 after 5 minutes, missing two open shots to lengthen the lead. Real Madrid stayed in the game thanks to Attruia and Lucio Angulo, who also missed shots but played with good intensity. A mini-run came at the end of the quarter for the home team as Marko Jaric sank a triple and Matjaz Smodis closed the period with a great dunk, giving Kinder 8 points to defend in the second quarter, 24-16.
Madrid lined up veteran Alberto Herreros to start the second quarter, and on good pick-and-roll plays the visitors stayed in the game at 26-20. Kinder had good drives inside with Jaric and found points also against the triangle-and-two zone defense of Madrid. A 7-0 Kinder run was punctuated by a great alley-oop on the break between Smodis and Ginobili that resulted in the highest lead yet, 33-20. But Real didn't give up, and thanks to Herreros coming off the picks matched that 7-0 run to pull within 33-27. Rigaudeau hit a three-pointer, but young Hernandez answered with an offensive rebound and three-point play of his own that took Real Madrid to within 38-36. Lucio Angulo completed the comeback with a couple of free throws for 38-38. Kinder was stopped on offense and Real Madrid took advantage of their hosts' missed shots and turnovers to race out on the break. Attruia capped the surge by scoring at the buzzer to give Madrid the halftime lead at 38-40. The visitors' comeback amounted to 5-20 run over the final 6 minutes of the second quarter.
The big run for Real Madrid came at the beginning of the third period, thanks to 5 great points scored by Attruia. The run became 0-15 for the visitors and a 38-45 lead, but Kinder came back into the game with 4 points by Jaric, a three-point play scored by Griffith and a great dunk by Ginobili on the break. The run was for Kinder this time, and it became 9-0 in about one minute, giving back the hosts a two-point lead, 47-45. Real Madrid resisted the hit made by Kinder, and hung onto Attruia's one-on-one plays. Attruia beat Jaric and opened the spaces for the team. Hernandez and Zan Tabak scored from the open spaces and Real had 5 points back to defend. Without Ginobili on the floor, Kinder had little success moving the ball, and agaionst the zone called by Scariolo, Bologna was not able to score from the field in its halfcourt offences. Herreros came off the picks and sunk the triple after Lucio Angulo's three-point play. The period ended with Real Madrid enjoying 8 points to defend, 63-55.
Jaric dunked to open the final quarter, but Real Madrid made it a game by allowing Kinder only one more basket in the first 5 minutes of the quarter. The visitors' run of 4-11 was keyed by the defense, which closed off spaces to center Rashard Griffith, who got blocked four times tonight on great defensive plays by Hernandez and Eric Streulens. Real escaped to lead by 15 points, 65-74, with open jumpers by Alberto Angulo. Angulo scored once again for 59-76, but Becirovic at the shot clock buzzer scored a key triple that gave back a little bit of serenity to Kinder, who seriously risked until that moment endangering the point difference for Final Four qualification. Attruia was back and scored once again, Jaric replied with a lay up for 64-80. Herreros missed the next chance from three-point range, Ginobili sunk a hook as Kinder was sure of the Final Four, obtained by defending the gap earned in Madrid. It was the first home loss for Kinder in this Euroleague edition.
Wednesday, April 3, 2002