A pair of last-minute three-pointers by Alain Digbeu shocked the fans in Wroclaw, Poland on Thursday and allowed Real Madrid to walk away with a big 65-71 road win against hosts Idea Slask. Fighting for its life in Group C, Idea led by a point after coming from way behind in the second half, but Digbeu's big shots gave Madrid revenge for the first-leg game it had lost to the Polish champions. The win raises Madrid's record to 6-4, good for part of a three-way tie for second place with Virtus Bologna and Ulker Istanbul. Idea Slask dropped to 3-7 and a true uphill climb in its quest to make the Top 16. Although Digbeu was the hero, Alex Mumbru led the winners with 19 points, while Derrick Alston added 15 and Lucas Victoriano 13. For Slask, Dainius Adomaitis and newcomer Michael Smith led the way with 11 points each, while Dominik Tomczyk and Kestutis Marciulionis bagged 10 apiece.
The guests started the game very concentrated on defense, trying to force Idea turnovers and succeeding most of the time. Sean Colson made his scoring debut in the Euroleague with a three from downtown, but Derrick Alston was playing as if his desire to beat Idea was personal, scoring 8 of the first 10 points as Madrid led 4-10. Dominik Tomczyk and Aleksander Koul did their best to stop the Madrid offense, but Lucas Victoriano organized quick fastbreaks, when he was not hitting for three or adding steals. As such, Madrid blazed out in front by 9-25. Idea was out of ideas as the guests ruled the paint on defense with Edu Hernandez-Sonseca. Sonseca was called for his third foul early, however, and he had to go to the bench as Koul hit the layup for 14-26 after 10 minutes.
The second quarter had a clear protagonist, Mumbru, as he rallied to keep Madrid ahead. Both teams based their scoring this quarter on triples, and Mumbru scored 7 straight points starting with his turnaround jumper from the side. The visitors' now led 18-35. Tomczyk and Maciej Zielinski also replied from downtown to pull Idea within 24-35. It was then when Slask changed to a zone defense. Madrid looked for Dragan Tarlac in the paint, rather unsuccessfully. Mumbru hit another three for 26-40 and his 16th point of the night. Another rain of threes set the score at 29-43, while Idea newcomer Michael Smith tried to show his qualities from under the boards with a layup for 33-43. The quarter ended with a jumper by Alfonso Reyes of Madrid as the game went to the break with the guests leading 33-45.
After the break, Idea Slask was back and concentrated, going to Koul as its main weapon in the paint. The center fought for every ball and put his team within 39-47. Both sides though, were playing too fast as that was translated in difficult shots that wouldn't go in. A fastbreak culminated by Lucio Angulo gave a nine-point lead to the guests at 40-49, but Slask would rally for a 7-1 run until the end of the quarter, including a three by Kestutis Marciulionis. That left the game close, 47-50 after 30 minutes, and ready to be decided in the last quarter.
The last period was breathtaking. Madrid just didn't manage to get decisive leads and Idea took full advantage. Smith slammed for 49-50 and a three-pointer by Dainius Adomaitis tied the game for the first time at 52-52. Mumbru hit the jumper to tie again 54-54 and from that point, the game entered a very tight phase. Madrid missed several free throws, while Smith sank all his attempts to lift Slask into the lead at 61-58. Real Madrid had problems moving the ball, but when it found the good option, the shots went in, none more important than Victoriano's game-tying three-pointer for 61-61. The game reached the last minute with Slask leading by a single point, 65-64. That's when the saving figure of Alain Digbeu appeared for Madrid. Quiet earlier in the game, Digbeu emerged now to sink first one three-pointer for a new Madrid lead, 65-67, and then another to make everything safe for the visitors at 65-70. The win was rounded up with another free throw by Derrick Alston for the final 65-71.
Thursday, January 9, 2003
Andrzej Jaworski, Wroclaw