With third place at stake in Group A, Cibona VIP used great game sense to defend its home court and pull of an important 73-58 home win over Real Madrid in Zagreb on Wednesday night. The win lifts Cibona to 5-3, which means it is alone in third place, while Real Madrid drops to 4-4 and a fourth-place tie with Prokom Trefl Sopot. Marko Popovic led the winners with 15 points while making 3 of 4 triples, while Andrija Zizic ruled the paint with a huge double-double of 14 points and as many rebounds. Josip Vrankovic added 13 points for the winners, who prevailed despite poor free-throw shooting. For Real Madrid, whose 15 turnovers proved decisive, only Louis Bullock managed to score in double digits, with 20 points. Felipe Reyes added 8 points and 14 rebounds for the guests, who were further put out by having to wear borrowed uniforms when their own were lost on their trip en route to Zagreb.
For the first time probably ever, Real Madrid stepped on court dressed in green, the color of the uniforms it borrowed when the real ones were lost in transit. The change did seem to bring good luck to the Spaniards as, after Zizic's starting basket, Bullock fed Mikael Gelabale for an inmense alley-oop. Popovic opened fire from the arc for a 6-3 Cibona lead, however, and Branimir Longin copied him to make it 9-5. Madrid was already committing turnovers and Cibona took advantage, but Gelabale and Bullock were active on offense, the latter knocking down 2 straight triples to tie the scoreat 13-13. However, a last, speedy layup by Popovic closed the quarter at 16-13 for Cibona.
The second quarter started in the same fashion as the first, with a basket by Zizic, to which Andrej Stimac added a layup for a new high lead of 20-13 for Cibona. Bullock stopped the slide for Madrid with 2 free throws but Popovic replied with a new triple, making it 23-15. Marin Rozic soon hit a new triple for a 9-point lead, but a dunk by Pat Burke and the acrobatic layup by Troy Bell gave some air to Madrid. After a timeout, however, a 5-0 run including a triple by Andrej Stimac established the first double-digit lead, 33-23. Curiosly enough, Madrid was dominating on offensive rebounds with 6 so far, but couldn't take advantage of second chances. Eventually, Bullock and Reyes teamed up for a 0-6 run, including a three-point play by the center, to pull Madrid within 37-31 at the half.
Bullock started the third quarter with a three-point play, but Cibona ended that trend with an 8-0 run, including a triple by Popovic and a three-point play by Marton Bader, to stay ahead 45-34. Madrid responded to a timeout with 2 baskets in a row, including another rebound put-back by Reyes. Cibona stayed comfortably ahead anyway, as Longin answered a triple by Moustapha Sonko to make it 50-43. After some time in which both teams struggled, Vrankovic and Reyes exchanged free throws and Vrankovic later added a huge hook to secure a 10-point lead after 30 minutes for Cibona, 58-48.
The only points in the first 2 minutes of the last quarter were a triple off the hands of Stimac. Zizic broke the spell with a free throw that gave Cibona a 62-48 lead, and that score remained at the 35-minute mark, with both defenses tougher than ever. Burke finally scored twice for Madrid from the stripe, but with a bit of luck, Zizic scored right away in response. Madrid showed its trademark pride when Alex Hervelle and Bullock connected in a 0-5 run that brought the deficit to single digits again, 64-55. But it was only a mirage as Zizic and Vrankovic replied with a 4-0 to sentence the outcome in favor of the now third-placed hosts.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004