Real Madrid combined its best defensive effort of the season with a flaming-hot shooting stretch to capture its first road win of the season on Thursday night. The Spanish champs held Crvena Zvezda to 60 points in their 15-point victory. They also made 6 three-pointers in a row at one point in the fourth quarter to break open a game after trailing 52-49 through three quarters.
It was perhaps odd that three-point shooting lifted Real late since Los Blancos had been 3 of 22 from downtown in the first 30 minutes. However, the Real guards are players who all believe in themselves and their teammates, so they did not hesitate.
"I think we played a great final quarter," Coach Pablo Laso said afterward. "I think we moved the ball very well between Fabien [Causeur], Rudy [Fernandez] and Sergio [Llull] to get open jumpers. So probably our best quarter was the fourth one, but it was very important the way the rest of the team worked for the previous 30 minutes."
Those three players each made 2 when Real knocked down those 6 triples in a row. Fernandez also made one to start the fourth before Llull missed in the second minute. Real was 7 for 9 in that final stanza because Walter Tavares attempted a shot in the closing seconds; it was the first three-point try by the 2.20-meter center in his EuroLeague career.
While Tavares dinged his team's three-point numbers, he and teenager Usman Garuba were key factors in Real's defensive prowess. The duo combined for 17 rebounds as Real outrebounded Zvezda 31-40. They had 8 of Real's 14 offensive rebounds. The visitors turned those into 11 second-chance points. Zvezda did not score a single point off of its 7 offensive rebounds. Tavares also rejected a career-high 5 shots and changed many others, which explained how Zvezda shot just 12 for 31 on two-pointers (38.7%).
"[Real] played a really good defensive game for 40 minutes. This was our problem tonight," explained Coach Andrija Gavrilovic "The last quarter is just a result and continuation of their effort on defense, of their pressure, aggressiveness in rebounds, which we paid for in the last 10 minutes."
It's not a good sign for the rest of the league to see Real win a tough game on the road in Belgrade when its shots wouldn't fall for three quarters. "We worked hard for 30 minutes, but we didn't play good. And then we shined in the last quarter," Laso summed up.
Just imagine what it will look like when Real does play four good quarters!