Real Madrid has started its Turkish Airlines EuroLeague campaign in an offensive fashion never seen before, however, last night that magnificent offense got the boost from a solid defensive performance, too. En route to 97-79 win over KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, the reigning champs stepped up on defense in impressive fashion in the second half.
After Baskonia tied the game at 65-65 with 2:49 left in the third quarter, Madrid allowed only 14 points the rest of the way against an opponent playing high-tempo basketball. The anchor of that defense is big man Walter "Edy" Tavares, who had one of his best games in the competition.
"I have a lot of great teammates, they play great defense," said Tavares, who stands 2.21 meters and is the EuroLeague's tallest player. "I just have to stay back and help them, and hopefully take something positive out of that."
Humble he may be, but Tavares was everywhere on Friday. He scored 7 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, one shy of his career high, and he matched his personal high by blocking 4 shots. Dubbed as Sergeant Swat by commentator Joe Arlauckas, he also contested at least half a dozen more Baskonia shot attempts, forcing air balls or bad misses, and allowing his teammates to run in transition just like they enjoy. He played so well that he spent 27 minutes and 38 seconds on the floor, another career high for him.
The Madrid center is less than a year removed from his debut , but was already one of key contributors in Real Madrid's climb to the EuroLeague throne last season, when he already started forcing opposing coaches to alter their game plans due to his presence. Now, Tavares has taken another step forward. Averaging 10.3 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks per game, he is leaving his footprints and fingertips all over Madrid's perfect start to the season.