Real Madrid lived up to the expectations and advanced to the ULEB Cup semifinals for the second time in as many appearances by edging Crvena Zvezda 79-78 in the Spanish capital on Tuesday. Real Madrid swept the series as it also recorded a 72-83 road win in Belgrade last week and will next face Unics Kazan for a spot in the ULEB Cup final. Louis Bullock led the winners with 22 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown and 9-of-9 from the line in just 24 minutes. Axel Hervelle added 14 points and Raul Lopez 10 for Madrid. Felipe Reyes pulled down 14 boards and is now the all-time ULEB Cup top rebounder with 336, passing Andre Riddick with 332. Milan Gurovic had 19 points for Zvezda, Petar Popovic added 13, while Nemanja Aleksandrov and Vuk Radivojevic each had 12 for the guests. Madrid led 38-26 and the outcome of the series was clear long before the final buzzer. Zvezda fought hard to get a prestigious win, but Bullock allowed Madrid to stay unbeaten in Palacio Vistalegre in all official competitions this season.
Popovic got Zvezda going with a left-handed layup as Madrid struggled to score in the opening 2 minutes. Defense kept the hosts alive until Blagota Sekulic followed a jump hook with a power basket for a 4-2 lead. Popovic kept pacing Zvezda with a turnaround jumper, but he didn't get much help. Soon Lopez stepped up and buried a big triple to give Madrid an 8-4 lead. The hosts used outstanding defense and powered the offensive board to take full control of the game. Popovic, Gurovic and Alex Mumbru hit free throws for a 9-7 score. Hervelle made foul shots, which Radivojevic matched with a floating layup. Tadija Dragicevic's dunk made it 11-11, but Bullock came through with a basket-plus-foul. Another layup by Radivojevic and free throws by Richard Nguema and Hervelle fixed the score at 17-13 after 10 minutes.
Zvezda kept struggling to score early in the second quarter, with no points coming in the opening 2 minutes of the period. Edu Hernandez-Sonseca stepped up with a five-meter jumper and Reyes added free throws for a 21-13 margin. Zvezda called a much-needed timeout and Antonio Burks took over with a triple. Popovic added a layup to get the guests within 21-18. Zvezda entered the foul bonus and Bullock rescued Madrid with 4 free throws. Igor Milosevic fed Dragicevic for a layup and Gurovic dunked it in transition, but Madrid kept going to the foul line often. Charles Smith buried consecutive three-pointers after a Zvezda timeout, good for a 34-22 Madrid margin. Hervelle capped an 11-0 run with a fast break basket for a 14-point margin. Lopez fed Marko Tomas for an alley-oop dunk, but Aleksandrov followed free throws with a layup to get Zvezda within 38-26 at halftime.
Reyes opened the second half with a layup, but Radivojevic answered from downtown to get Zvezda within 40-29. Zvezda now opted to be aggressive, as Gurovic made free throws and Popovic scored twice around the basket to get Zvezda within 42-35. Hervelle hit a jumper, but Steven Markovic bettered that with a triple from the corner. Lopez and Hervelle joined the three-point shootout to keep Madrid ahead 50-40 midway through the third quarter. Popovic took over with a tough jump hook and Milosevic scored off an inbounds steal, but Smith fired in a three-pointer for a 53-44 Madrid lead. Gurovic shined with a dunk and added a triple after a Madrid timeout to give Zvezda some hope, 53-50. Once again Gurovic capped a 0-8 run with a put-back dunk, 53-52. Bullock's free throws were bettered by Markovic's three at the other end to get Zvezda within 58-55 after 30 minutes.
Aleksandrov scored inside at the start of the final period. Soon after, Reyes became the ULEB Cup all-time rebounder with his 11th board in this game. Lopez made free throws and Reyes added a short jumper to keep Madrid ahead, 62-57. Aleksandrov stepped up with back-to-back three-pointers to get Zvezda within 64-63. Bullock answered from downtown and Tomas added a fast break layup to cause the guests to call timeout at 69-63. The outcome of the series was clear and both teams fought now for the prestigious win. Mumbru made foul shots and Bullock fired in another bomb from downtown to make it an 11-point game with 4 minutes to go. Radivojevic and Gurovic fueled a 0-10 run that got Zvezda within 76-73 with 90 seconds remaining. Dragicevic got Zvezda even closer, 77-75, with 47 seconds to go. Gurovic missed a key three-point shot while Bullock sealed the win with free throws with 6 seconds remaining.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007