It was another chapter of a legendary sports rivalry that goes back almost 60 years. The next game between Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, in the Russian capital on January 14, will be their 50th showdown. The 49th game between them, a 97-81 victory by Real, belonged to a player who got extra playing time for the winners due to Jeffery Taylor's injury.
They call him "El Tortuga" (The Turtle) but Gabriel Deck has proven to be anything but slow. He showed hints of his determination when hitting a buzzer-beating to beat KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz away in the Spanish League weeks ago. And to close Round 10 on Friday, when it was time to show the same in the EuroLeague, he was the decider against the reigning champs.
Deck was a constant threat, taking taller opponents far from the rim to use his speed and smaller ones into the low post with his strength. His low-post game is not just about Deck, who has a very effective turnaround jumper, but also about generating opportunities for his teammates.
When the dust settled, Deck had posted 17 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and a PIR of 33 – all of which were career highs in his 41st EuroLeague game over two seasons. His 11 defensive rebounds were one short of tying Real's club record by Anthony Randolph against Baskonia on October 25, 2016.
"If I had to highlight something today it's his 11 defensive rebounds and 6 assists," Real head coach Pablo Laso said after the game. "That shows he shares the ball well, looking for open players, and that he can help on the boards... This being his second season with the team, we knew he would bring out his best."
Coming from humble origins in rural Argentina, Deck started playing basketball in his backyard, using a tractor wheel attached to a piece of wood as the rim. He still claims that the way he plays still reflects the competitiveness he learned playing on that improvised dirt-floor court in his native Colonia Dora, Argentina.
And at age 24, Deck's best is yet to come. "I am always happy when I am able to help the team in everything I can," he said after beating CSKA. "I think it is also because of my own confidence, and the confidence I get from the team and our coaching staff. I am thankful to them every day, and it motivates me to keep working."