Real rolls past Zenit for Laso’s 200th win
Real Madrid made it six wins in a row at home by holding off Zenit St Petersburg 79-72 on Thursday night. The first half was closely contested with defenses largely on top and it was 36-31 at the break. Real started the second half with a 20-3 run to take control, and although Zenit got closer with a 0-9 run entirely through Austin Hollins early in the fourth, the margin was too big to be overcome and Real never looked seriously troubled. Walter Tavares powered the home team with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Alberto Abalde scored 16 points. Anthony Randolph and Nicolas Laprovittola both added 11 and Trey Thompkins 10. Hollins led the scoring for Zenit with 15 points, KC Rivers netted 12 against his former club and Kevin Pangos also scored 12. Real improved to 8-5, climbing above Zenit (7-4) in the standings.
Abalde drove inside to open the scoring and Thompkins made it 4-0 with a hook shot. Will Thomas got the visitors started before Mateusz Ponitka’s triple and Alex Poythress’s tip-in gave Zenit its first lead, 6-7. Randolph and Thompkins put Real back on top, but Zenit enjoyed a 0-7 run through Rivers from deep and Arturas Gudaitis and Pangos inside, making it 13-14. Jeffery Taylor’s triple saw the lead change hands again and Tavares added a three-point play. Rivers and Abalde traded three-pointers and it was 24-21 after the first quarter. Randolph’s corner three started the second quarter and Tavares’s tip-in made it 29-22. Zenit was held nearly 5 minutes without a field goal, but Billy Baron scored 5 straight points to keep it close. Real didn’t score for 4 minutes before Sergio Llull penetrated for a layup-and-one. An easy score for Taylor added to the lead before Ponitka’s bank shot with a foul on the halftime buzzer made it 36-31 at the break.
Laprovittola opened the third quarter from long range and another Tavares tip-in gave Real a double-digit lead, 41-31. Laprovittola drained another three, but Baron answered likewise for Zenit’s first score of the second half. Gabriel Deck, Abalde and Laprovittola stretched the lead to 51-34 as Zenit couldn’t get anything going on offense. Hollins finally stopped the drought, but free throws extended Real’s advantage to 58-36. Poythress scored twice to make it a little closer, 59-42, at the end of the third. Abalde reasserted Real with a three-pointer early in the fourth, but Hollins scored all the points in a 0-9 run, including a four-point play, to make it 62-51 and keep Zenit hoping. Rivers added a three-pointer, but Real’s defense then held firm and Abalde’s layup-plus-foul made it 70-58 with 3 minutes left. Rivers and Thompkins both had three-point plays and Thomas added a triple before free throws from Pangos gave Zenit a small chance at 73-66 going into the last minute. But Randolph struck a corner three and the outcome was sealed.
Old foes seek surprise
In a game between two coaches who know each other extremely well, there were early tactical surprises in an attempt to provide something unexpected: Pablo Laso sent out Real with no recognized point guards and Alberto Abalde filling that role, while Xavi Pascual’s Zenit began the game in a zone defense.
Milestone win for Laso
The victory marked a milestone for Real coach Laso, who claimed his 200th victory in the competition. He also took his personal EuroLeague record against former Barcelona coach Pascual to 10-6.
One streak continues, another ends
The outcome saw one streak continue while another came to an end: it was Real’s sixth consecutive home victory, but Zenit’s first loss on the road all season after six previous successes.
D does it for Real
Real leaned on outstanding defense to establish a game-winning lead. Zenit was only allowed 10 points in the second quarter and scored just 3 points in the opening 8 minutes of the third, allowing Real to move ahead by more than 20. Jeffery Taylor’s outstanding defense on Kevin Pangos was a big factor in that effort.
Real travels to Greece on Tuesday evening to take on Panathinaikos OPAP Athens in Round 14. Zenit's next game will be at home versus FC Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Thursday, December 10, 2020