Madrid pulls away to seize first place from CSKA!
With a display of relentless offense that finally buried the best defense in the competition, Real Madrid defeated CSKA Moscow 93-79 on Thursday to clinch a playoffs spot and take over first place in Top 16 Group F. Both teams are tied with 9-2 records and 14-point wins against each other, but Madrid has beaten the rest of the group by 4 points more than CSKA - so far. Despite 8 ties and 17 lead changes in the first three quarters, Madrid didn't commit a turnover until the fourth had started and its total of 2 at the end of the game was a new Euroleague record. Rudy Fernandez scored a career-high 28 points to go with 4 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists to lead Madrid through comeback try after comeback try by CSKA. Nikola Mirotic added 15 points, including the crucial final free throws that let Madrid match the difference from its earlier 14-point loss in Moscow. Sergio Llull, Ioannis Bourousis and Sergio Rodriguez each scored 10 more for the winners, who made 26 of 31 free throws, as compared to 10 of 16 for CSKA. The visitors had their own star scorer in Sonny Weems, who drilled 28 points to go with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Nenad Krstic had 14 more points and Jeremy Pargo 10 for the visitors, who were missing injured point guard Milos Teodosic, just as Madrid missed sharpshooter Jaycee Carroll.
First quarter: 3 ties, 11 lead changes in 10 minutes
Madrid scored on its first opportunity, as Lllull drove into the CSKA defense. CSKA went straight inside to Sasha Kaun to match that basket, but seconds later, Tremmel Darden knocked down the game's first three-pointer. When Fernandez did the same from the corner, despite being guarded closely by Victor Khryapa, Madrid was up 8-2 and CSKA needed a timeout. The visitors righted their ship behind a free throw from Kaun, a jumper by Weems and a corner triple by Vladimir Micov to cut the difference to 10-8. Pargo then did the honors of taking the first lead for CSKA with a three-point play at 10-11, although that was followed by Mirotic's first points, at the free throw line, to put Madrid back in front. Pargo flashed to the hoop and scored, but Bourousis got the same 2 points back at the free throw line. That sequence repeated itself with Pargo beating the shot clock at one end and Fernandez making it 16-15 at the free throw line. Llull drove for a layup before Madrid's defense left Pargo open to hit a triple that put CSKA up 18-20. Sure enough, the response changed the lead again as Mirotic drilled a shot from the corner. Krstic took back the lead for CSKA with an inside hook, so when Mirotic made 1 of 2 free throws, it was a 22-22 tie. Kyle Hines broke the tie with 2 free throws after having missed 2 others. Rodriguez fed Reyes to end the quarter appropriately, with two well-oiled machines tied 24-24.
Second quarter: Mejri makes difference before half
Krstic scored out of the second-quarter gate to give back the lead to CSKA before Rodriguez connected with Fernandez for a reverse dunk to finish one of their patented back-door alley-oops. Fernandez dunked again on an open fastbreak, but Vitaly Fridzon answered from downtown to take back a 28-29 lead for CSKA. Fernandez matched him at the other end, however, and Reyes broke away for another transition layup to push Madrid up 33-29, the second-biggest lead of the game. Out of a timeout, CSKA went to Weems for a triple and a post-up hook in between which Rodriguez dropped a layup. But when a loose ball turned into a breakaway layup by Weems, CSKA was back in front 35-36. A put-back by Reyes and a free throw by Krstic meant a new tie, 37-37. Salah Mejri added his name to the Madrid scorers with a jump hook at 39-37. A new CSKA scorer, Aaron Jackson, forged another tie before Mejri's free throw kept Madrid up 40-39. Next, Mejri rose up on defense, erasing a Krstic dunk attempt to send Llull the other way for a fastbreak layup, then drawing a charge. Weems took a basket off the difference with a nifty baseline jumper but there would not be another lead change before Madrid went into the locker room ahead 42-41 after making it through an action-packed first half without a single turnover!
Third quarter: Rudy rules as Madrid pulls away
Bourousis opened the second half perfect at the free throw line before Fernandez made a no-look fastbreak pass to Mirotic for a reverse layup that made it 46-41. CSKA came out of a timeout and seized the momentum with 5 points from Krstic sandwiched around a dunk by Weems as the visitors surged in front 46-48. Mirotic forced a new tie at 48-48 before Fernandez made a spectacular basket inside, plus the free throw, then stole for a breakaway alone to send Madrid back in front, 53-48. Rudy wasn't finished, however, as he then stepped back for a triple before a steal by Mirotic ended with a dunk by Darden for a sudden 58-48 lead, the biggest of the game. Out of a CSKA timeout, Weems answered with a big three-pointer and a cross-over layup to pull the visitors within 58-53. Free throws by Mirotic were matched with a backdoor layup by Fridzon before Llull reappeared for free throws and Krstic downed a hook shot. Weems took advantage of Marcus Slaughter going 1 of 2 at the line to get CSKA within 63-59 before Mirotic made 1 of 2 himself for the hosts. Rodriguez robbed a pass and raced downcourt for a seven-point Madrid lead, although Hines made the last basked for CSKA to cut the difference to 66-61 after 30 minutes.
Fourth quarter: Mirotic makes sure Madrid matches difference
Weems cut the difference to 3 points before Darden drilled a triple at 69-63. Madrid's first turnover of the night, after 31 minutes, didn't hurt the hosts as Fernandez returned with a nifty hook shot, then stole and fed Reyes for a layup for another 10-point advantage, 73-63. Hines answered with an open dunk before a steal by Jackson led to a triple by Fridzon, suddenly cutting the difference in half, to 73-68. A jumper by Rodriguez combined with an off-the-ball foul gave Madrid a second shot in one possession and Fernandez made it pay with a triple for another double-digit lead, 78-68. Kaun got a basket back that Rodriguez matched at the foul line. When Fernandez drew a foul while shooting from the arc, he went to the line and drilled all 3 free throws to put Madrid up 13, a point away from stealing first place from CSKA. Rodriguez fooled the CSKA defense for a layup to make it 85-70 , but Weems answered with a jumper and then found Micov fora transition triple to make it 85-75. Llull came out of a timeout and hit a rainbow two-pointer. Weems took back 2 points on free throws while Bourousis made only 1 of 2. Krstic made a reverse layup at 88-79 with 1 minute left, seeming to make Madrid's battle to win by 14 or more too tough. But Bourousis then finished a layup, was fouled and completed the three-point- play at 91-79. With 21.6 seconds left, Rodriguez missed a three-pointer, but Mirotic was fouled on the rebound and hit both free throws for exactly a 14-point lead. The outcome was sure, a Madrid win and both teams tied with 9-2 records, but the remaining time would decide which of them would take over first place. In the final seconds, CSKA missed a pair of chances to take over first place, but didn't let Madrid get another, so for the time being Madrid has a four-point lead in the global difference within the group to hold first place again.
Thursday, March 20, 2014