The surprise of the opening week of the Euroleague Regular Season came in the Spanish capital between two historic rivals, as Cibona VIP pulled off a 69-70 road win over Real Madrid in Group A. Cibona held the lead for almost 40 minutes, until a put-back by Moustapha Sonko with 25 seconds to play put Madrid ahead 69-68. On its last possession, Cibona guard Marko Popovic found Andrija Zizic alone under the basket for a layup with 8 seconds left to preserve the victory. Zizic was the man for Cibona, with 22 points. Branimir Longin added 12 for the winners, Josip Vrankovic 11 and Andrej Stimac 10. Madrid, who got only 5 minutes from injured point guard Elmer Bennett, was led by Louis Bullock's 15 points. Alberto Herreros added 14, while Felipe Reyes had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Real Madrid had a slow start of the game, as Cibona's defense held the hosts scoreless for almost 3 minutes. Meanwhile, Marton Bader and Zizic scored inside for a 0-4 lead. Bullock fired back with a three-pointer, but Madrid could not find the way to the basket and committed 6 turnovers in 7 minutes. A big three by Vrankovic from the top of the key and a fastbreak layup by Longin opened a 0-9 run. Zizic proved unstoppable as Cibona's lead hit 5-15 lead after 8 minutes. Madrid improved with newcomer Axel Hervelle in the floor, but Marko Popovic stepped up with an outstanding three-pointer at the buzzer that gave Cibona a 9-18 lead after 10 minutes.
Having established Zizic's low post game during the first quarter, Cibona started taking advantage in the second of the Madrid defense's attention inside. By the time Vrankovic, Krstic and Branimir Longin got free on the arc and drained open three-pointers, Cibona was running away with a 13-28 lead. Hervelle made a big block of Zizic, but Andrej Stimac added his own triple for Cibona as the lead kept climbing. Krstic stole from Madrid rebounder and scored, then Stimac fired again from downtown and Longin dropped a free throw to make it 17-37. It was all Madrid could to to get to the foul line to score the last 6 points of the quarter to get within 14 points, 23-37 at the break.
Bueno kept Madrid close until Zizic reappeared with a big three-point play that reestablished a 31-42 advantage for Cibona early in the third quarter. When another Bueno jumper cut the difference back to single digits, Vrankovic rose up for another triple. A block by Marton Bader sent Zizic for a fastbreak layup to boost the advantage again to 35-47. Longin struck again from downtown, then made a great layup-plus-free throw to establish the highest lead of the quarter at 43-57. But Zizic soon picked up his fourth foul and left. Again, Madrid revived itself at the foul line until Herreros drilled a three-pointer that cut the lead all the way back to 5 points before Josip Sesar ended the quarter with free throws and a 52-59 Cibona advantage.
A full 4 minutes of the final quarter passed with no points scored, which favored Cibona. While the teams were stuck without a shot, Zizic returned and broke the ice on his second try, making it 52-61, but that seemed to awake Madrid too. Michael Gelabele scored near the basket, and a steal by Madrid ended up in the hands of Fotsis at the arc. He buried the shot to pull the hosts within 57-61 with more than 5 minutes left still. After a Cibona timeout, Gelabele stole and dunked to bring the crowd into the game. To silence them, Zizic got the line and made one shot, then Vrankovic added a pair to make it 59-64 with under 4 minutes left. Bullock popped a shot from the paint, but Stimac got it back with an offensive rebound. Herreros hit a big triple before Moustapha Sonko blocked Zizic from behind and Reyes added the tying basket, 66-66, on an offensive rebound. Popovic fed Stimac for a layup to keep Cibona ahead, and with just over a minute left, Herreros made just 1 of 2 free throws for a 67-68 scoreboard entering the final minute. Bullock took and missed Madrid's go-ahead attempt, but Sonko was there to put back the rebound for Madrid's first lead, 69-68, with 25 seconds left. After a timeout, Madrid chased Popovic without fouling but he suddenly found Zizic open under the basket for the game-winner with 5 seconds left. Cibona started the season right, with a hard-to-come by victory in a place few visitors after will have it easy.
Thursday, November 4, 2004